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Encyclopedia 



Mahathir Bin Mohamad 

Prime Minister of Malaysia 

Volume 8 




Of 

Dr .Mahathir Bin Mohamad 

Prime Minister of Malaysia 




Volume 




Politics, democracy 
and the (fNhv ^sia 




Publishers 

DAR AL-KITAB AL-MASRI-CAIRO DAR AL-KITAB ALLUBNANI- BEIRUT 



DAR AL-KITAB - MALAYSIA 



DARULFIKIR - KUALA-LUMPUR 





Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad 

le Minister Of Malaysia 




Translation & Revision 

A committee of Drs. & Profs, From 

universities of Cairo, Alexandria, 

Hallwan, Ein-Shams and Al-Azhar 

Dr. Abd El Rahman El Sheikh 

Dr. Tawfik Ali Mansour 

Dr. Ramadan Bastawisi 

Dr. Yasir Shaban 

Prof. Ahmed Mahmoud 

Prof. Ahmad Abd El Hamid 

Prof Farouk Lokman 

Prof. Abd EL Hamid Dabouh 

Prof Mohamad Rushdy 

Prof Talaat EI Shayeb 

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reproduced or utilized in any fomi w by 
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ironillieDublisher. 









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bJam And The Muslim Ummah 

The Challenge 

Asia 

Globalisation 
Malaysia 

Globalisation And The New Realities 
Science, Technology And Human Rights 
Politics, Democracy And The New Asia 
Development And Regional Cooperation 
Contemporary Issues 



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Editor In Arabic Language : Talaat El Shayeb. 



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1 




CONTENTS 



PREFACE 9 



WHEN THE UGLINESS OF CAPITALISM 



REVEALS ITSELF 1 1 

A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 54TH SESSION OF THE UNITED 
NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN NEW YORK, UNITED 
IN SEPTEMBER 29, 1999 

2. THE POWER OF THE PRESS 21 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE OPENING OF THE 
COMMONWEALTH PRESS UNION BIENNIAL CONFERENCE 
IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA. ON OCTOBER 26, 1 998 

3. A NEW MINDSET FOR A NEW AGE 29 

A KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE INTERNATIONAL 
CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF ASIA ORGANISED BY NIHON 
KEIZAI SHIMBUN IN TOKYO,. JAPAN, ON JUNE 3, 1 996 

4. SOCIALISM, COMMUNISM, CAPITALISM 
AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY 41 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE I 998 HARVARD PROJECT 
FOR ASIAN AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS CONFERENCE 
IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, ON MAY 26, 1 996 

5. ASIA'S ROLE IN THE GLOBAL COMMONWEALTH 
OF THE 2 1ST CENTURY S3 

A SPEECH ON "ASIA'S PLACE AND ROLE IN THE MAKING OF 
THE GLOBAL COMMONWEALTH OF THE 2 1 ST CENTURY" 
IN LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM, ON OCTOBER 21, 1997 




5 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



CHALLENGES FOR THE NEXT GENERATION 



AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS DELIVC>«£D AT THE UNIVERSITY 



OF MALAYA ALUMNI MEETING IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, 
ON SEPTEMBER 19. 1997 

• BUILDING THE GLOBAL COMMONWEALTH 
OF THE 2tST CENTURY 73 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE 5TH GULF ECONOMIC FORU 
ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN BAHRAIN^ON APRIL 8, 1 997 

8. THE FUTURE ROLE OF JAPAN IN ASIA 83 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE CONFERENCE ON "THE FUTURE 
OF ASIA AND THE ROLE OF JAPAN: CHALLENGES OF THE 2 1 ST 
CENTURY TO YOUTH" AT WASEDA UNIVERSITY IN TOKYO, JAPAN, 
ON MARCH 27, 1 997 

9. WILL THE 21 ST CENTURY STILL 
BE THE ASIAN CENTURY? 93 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE GLOBAL PANEL 1 996 
IN THE HAGUE ON DECEMBER 3, 1 996 

1 O. BUILDING A SINGLE GLOBAL COMMONWEALTH 1 03 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE 3RD PACIFIC DIALOGUE 

IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, ON NOVEMBER 21, 1996 

1 1 • THE NEED FOR REFORMS 

IN THE UNITED NATIONS 1 1 1 

A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 5 1 ST SESSION OF THE UNITED 
NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, 
ON SEPTEMBER 27, 1 996 

I 

1 2. THE ASIAN century: 

A MALAYSIAN PERSPECTIVE f 2 1 

AN ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE 2ND MALAYSIA-CHINA FORUM 

IN BEIJING, CHINA, ON AUGUST 26, 1 996 
13* THE ASIAN RENAISSANCE 1 29 

A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE REGIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE 
HARVARD CLUBS OF MALAYSIA IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, 
ON AUGUST 15, 1996 

1 4. THE ASIAN VALUES DEBATE 1 39 

A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 29TH INTERNATIONAL GENERAL 

MEETING OF THE PACIFIC BASIN ECONOMIC COUNCIL 

IN WASHINGTON. DC, UNITED STATES, ON MAY 21,1 996 

1 5, TOWARDS A STABLE ASIA 1 47 

A KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE INTERNATIONAL 
CONFERENCE ON "THE FUTURE OF ASIA" ORGANISED BY NIHON 
KEI2AI SHIMBUN IN TOKYO, JAPAN, ON MAY 17, 1996 




6 






POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



16. THE REALITY OF A RESURGENT ASIA 157 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE NEW 
ZEALAND-ASIA INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND. NEW 
ZEALAND, ON MARCH 28, 1996 

AN EQUAL ASIA-EUROPE PARTNERSHIP 
FOR A BETTER WORLD 1 65 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE ASIA BUSINESS LEADERS' BANGKOK 
DIALOGUE IN BANGKOK, THAILAND, ON MARCH 3, 1 996 

AN ASIAN RENAISSANCE FOR A NEW ASIA 1 73 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE NEW ASIA FORUM IN KUALA LUMPUR, 
MALAYSIA, ON JANUARY 1 1, 1996 

REFORMING THE UNITED NATIONS 
FOR THE FUTURE 181 

A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 50TH SESSION OF THE UNITED 
NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, ON 
SEPTEMBER 29, 1995 

20. THE FUTURE OF ASIA 191 

A PAPER DELIVERED AT THE NIHON KEIZAI SHtMBUN 
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE THE FUTURE OF ASIA 
IN TOKYO, JAPAN, ON MAY 1 9, 1 995 

RETHINKING HUMAN RIGHTS 201 

A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE JUST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 
ON "RETHINKING HUMAN RIGHTS" IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, 
ON DECEMBER 6, 1 994 



INDEX 209 




7 






PREFACE 




THIS COLLECTION of speeches, written and delivered in the 1990s, 
represents some of the major themes of Malaysian Prime Minister Dato 
Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad's views and thoughts on politics, democ- 
racy and the much-heralded new Asia. 

Dr Mahathir is noted for his strong, thought-provoking and no- 
holds-barred views on politics and democracy. An ardent believer in 
democracy himself, he is against attempts to turn the Asian political 
system into the Anglo-Saxon liberal democracy. A leader who speaks 
his mind, Dr Mahathir disagrees with the view that liberal democracyis 
the only way of administering a country and that there can be only one 
economic system (namely, the free market system) for the whole world. 
He laments the feet that the Western free-market liberal democracies is 
now unchallenged with the demise of the Eastern bloc. 

Dr Mahathir also shares his thoughts on the need to work on the 
World Century, a single global commonwealth characterised by mutual 
respect, mutual appreciation, much greater consideration for the inter- 
ests, feelings, values and ways of others. He disagrees with the view that 
the next century is going to be the Asian Century. 

However, Dr Mahathir believes that a new Asia will emerge, an 
Asia that no longer sits down and takes injury and insult in silence. 

Calling for the reform of the United Nations to make the world 
body more democratic, Dr Mahathir, in his well-articulated speeches, 
also shares his views on the freedom of the press which is touted as a ba- 
sic democratic principle. He feels that control of the media by a handful 
of Western corporations has made a mockery of this principle. He also 



9 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



decries the West's attempt to foist their values on the rest of the world 
and calls for a more sincere attempt to understand Asian values and 
their place in society* 

It is hoped that this selection of speeches would provoke further 
discussion on the subjects of democracy, capitalism, press freedom, 
Asian values and the challenges of the 2 1st century. 




Ha^mnMakaniddm 
Editor 




JO 




1 



THE WIRELES 




TELECOMMUNICATIONS 
NDUSTRYINTHE 
2 1ST CENTURY 



LET ME BEGIN by being politically current and correct regarding 
wireless telecommunications. When the International Telecommuni'- 
cation Union (ITU) was founded in 1865, the telegraph was the cut-- 
ting edge of technology. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the 
first telephone call when he uttered and transmitted the femous words 
to his assistant, "Mr Watson, come here, I want you." The birth of wire^ 
less through the first microwave radio link was around 1950 and satel- 
lite communication began in 1962. The first cellular phone made its 
appearance in 1983. The Internet made its presence felt at the begin- 
ning of the 1990s. 

Today, the cutting edge of technology has dramatically changed. 
One hundred and thirty-four years after the telegraph, global telecom- 
munications have become a complex web of intelligent networks 
linked by fibre-optic cables, traditional copper wires, microwave, satel- 
lite systems, cellular mobile systems and high-speed computers. Inter- 
estingly, the basic mission of the ITU remains unchanged. It was 
founded upon the principle that telecommunications should be avail- 
able anytime and anywhere regardless of national boundaries. That 
principle is still true today. 

I will not be so bold as to tell the experts in telecommunications 
what the fiiture holds one hundred and thirty four years from now. I will 




A speech delivered at the Opening Ceremony of the 1999 International 
Wireless and Telecommunications Symposium in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on 
Mav 19, 1999 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



only be brave enough to infer what is in store for us in the early part of 
the 21st century, perhaps up to around the year 2020, 

Between now and the year 2020, projection studies- have shown 
that the population of the world will have grown fixMti around five bil 




lion to something like nine billion. And it is believed that the greatest 
test for human society as it confronts the 2Ist century is how to use the 
power of technology to meet the demands created by the power of 
population. 

lelecommunications in the 2 1 st century will be digital, mobile and 
per? onal. For we are now witnessing a technological progress forging 
ahead faster than ever before in human history. It is sweeping forward 
in an unpredictable fashion on a wave of powerful global communica-- 
tioft networks of ever-increasing performance and capacity. The de- 
mand for faster information, anywhere, anytime is also stimulating an 
unprecedented growth in the telecommunications industry. As socie- 
ties become increasingly more information-based, consumers every- 
where hunger for more, faster and better information. And this trend 
will continue. As for the telecommunications industry, the challenge is 
to adapt to these changes in demand, to provide the new form of serv- 
ices that the customers want — efficiently and effectively. 

In the last five years, wireless voice communications have ex- 
panded significantly. Wireless technologies hold the promise for the fu- 
ture data transfer as we are rapidly becoming ari infonnation society. 
Wireless technologies have significant potential to serve our informa- 
tion needs. This potential for providing information services will result 
in the fastest growing market today. Wireless technologies are seen as 
the prime movers in the telecommunications arena. 

Mobile wireless technologies are an obvious medium to provide ac- 
cess to the Internet. I understand that a number of universities around 
the world have built wireless networks on the campus. These networks 
enable staff and students to access data ftom any point on the campus. 
A student can even sit under a tree with a laptop and do a research as- 
signment on the Internet. 

Wireless technologies and the Internet represent the convergence 
of two of the fastest growing markets and developing technologies in 
the telecommunications field. This convergence of technology is cer- 
tainly one important element in the telecommunications landscape. 



12 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



democratic system that comes with a lack of understanding of its intri- 
cacies by the leaders as well as the pfeople, meant that they would stay in 
a state of continuous tunnoil, verging on anarchy. 

A few countries apparendy managed to grow and prosper. Though 
norfor long. The currency manipulators and short-term investors of 
the rich soon impoverished these countries through devaluing their 
currencies and share prices. Impoverished and politically unstable they 
were forced to borrow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) . 
Whether by design or through sheer lack of understanding, the eco- 
nomic regime imposed by the IMF destroyed their economies further. 
Soon their political freedom was also subverted and iiiany had to ac- 
cept political direction by the IMF or the loans would not be made 
available. For practical purposes there was no independence. 

And so for small, independent countries of the world, the future 
looks bleak. Developing countries are now being told to open their bor- 
ders, that capital, goods and services should flow freely between coun- 
tries, with no discriminatory taxes to protect local industries or prod- 
ucts, and allow local financial irxstitutions, industries and products to 
compete on the same footing with foreign banks and industries set up in 
their countries and imported products. No conditions must be at- 
tached to foreign banks and businesses which want to set up operations 
in their countries. They must have national status like those given to 
local businesses. This way, it is said, a level playing field will be created 
and competition will be fair. 

But can competition between giants and dwarfs be fair even if the 
playing field is level? Such competition between rich and poor coun- 
tries can never be feir. Big corporations and industries from rich coun- 
tries can afford to lose money when conducting business in smaller 
economies because they make huge profits from their huge markets at 
home and elsewhere. The small businesses in the small countries will go 
bankrupt if they lose mone^ repeatedly. In the end, they will have to be 
sold to the big foreign companies or close down altogether. And when 
that happens, there will be no more big local companies. There will 
only be branches of large foreign companies who will indulge in transfer 
pricing, and will repatriate most of their profits. 

Furthermore, the efficient giants may produce better and cheaper 
goods. Smaller businesses cannot compete in such an environment. If 
these countries cannot export their own products to earn foreign ex- 



13 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




change, they will be unable to buy foreign goods. Cheap, high-quality 
goods mean nothing if you have no money to pay for them. The mar- 
kets of the poor countries may not be big but impoverishing them 
would result in lost sales for the rich. That was what happened when 
the currency traders impoverished the countries they attacked. These 
countries could not buy the products of the rich, i.e. the rich lost their 
markets and world trade contracted. 

Free, unrestricted flows of goods and services across borders may be 
good for a while, but eventually it will destroy markets and result in 
contraction of world trade. The world will actually become poorer be- 
cause of free trade. 

After World War II, the confrontation between East and West led 
to most of the colonies being liberated and becoming independent. Be- 
ing independent meant the right to govern their countries themselves. 
Unaccustomed to wielding so much power many of these governments 
failed. They became hopelessly indebted to the banks of the rich coun- 
tries. Their people suffered from incompetent and frequently oppres- 
sive rule. 

But the principle that prevailed in the third quarter of the 20th 
century was that no one should interfere in the internal aflairs of a na- 
tion. That, in fact, was the essence of independence. As long as the 
world was divided into Eastern and Western blocs this principle was re- 
spected. 

But then a president decided that his country had a right and a 
duty to oversee that human rights are not abused anywhere in the 
world irrespective of borders and the independence of nations. No one 
conferred this right on this crusading president. But small things like 
that was not going to stop him. The claimed victory of the West in the 
Gulf War was regarded as a moral endorsement of the right of the pow- 
erfiil to interfere in any country's internal affairs. Soon it was not just 
human rights. Systems of government and the administration of jus- 
tice, of the financial and commercial systems came under the scrutiny 
of the powerful countries. They insist that there must be only one way 
of administering a country and that is the liberal democratic way. They 
insist that there can be only one economic system for the whole world 
and that is the free-market-system. They insist that there must be open- 
ness in everything, transparency, separation of the private from public 




14 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



sectors, non-discrimination between ethnic groups and no discrimina- 
tion against foreigners in fevour of nationals. 

All these and more sound very good. They have apparently worked 
for the developed countries of the West, making them rich and power- 
ful, giving their people high standards of living. But will they work for 



everyone 



7 



They seem to have forgotten that they took centuries to make their 
system work. Their transition from feudal oppressive rule was bathed 
copiously in blood* Both rich and poor were massacred as reforms were 
forced by a succession of uncaring tyrants, many elected by the people. 
Even today their system has not brought about freedom and equity to 
large segments of their people. Yet they insist that all the countries of 
the world, new or old, must immediately adopt the only system of gov- 
ernment, their system, their liberal democratic system. 

The newly-independent countries which knew only the authori- 
tarian system of government cannot but feil. The former communist 
countries found themselves in particular unable to cope with the desta- 
bilising challenges directed at government authority in a liberal democ- 
racy. 

But the new countries are not going to be allowed time to leam and 
operate the system. They must change now, immediately. If their coun- 
tries are destabilised, if their people suffer, if they regress economically, 
these are irrelevant. The important thing is that they must democratise 
and liberalise. If they fail to do so they would be forced to do so through 
arm-twisting, trade sanctions and military action if necessary. That 
these measures are more oppressive than those of the disapproved re- 
gimes and systems do not matter. That adoption of the approved system 
would destabilise the countries ftirther, and cause frirther suffering do 
not matter. All these do not matter because the most important thing is 
the adoption of the system, not the benefit to be derived from it. 

It is the same with economic management. There must be liberali- 
sation and deregulation. The government should not help the business 
sector, should not give them any protection. If they are attacked by out- 
side forces, fairly or unfairly and they lose, then let them die. They must 
be inefficient if they lose, and the world has neither time nor sympathy 
for inefficient losers. 



15 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



And so giant currency traders, their funds leveraged a hundred 
times or more, are pitted against central banks with limited reserves 
and without leveraging rights. The economies of whole countries and 
regions are destroyed but the cries for protection by these countries are 
ignored. The fields are level and the free movements of capital are a 
part of the sacred free trade. Everyone must accept whatever happens 
because it is free trade. Ail the currency traders are doing is to discipline 
governments, so that they conform to the system and do away with 
their bad old ways. 

In a financial crisis, governments may not help businesses to rc' 
coven To do that means a bailout of cronies. Let them die. Let there he 
blood. Only then will governments be considered as serious in wanting 
to reform their systems, to adopt best practices, world standards and the 
only proper way to administer the economy. If the government be- 
comes bankrupt in trying. to do this, that is all right. The important 
thing is to do things correctly even if the country is destroyed, the peo- 
ple starved to death, anarchy reigns and the government collapses. 

There is a touching concern on the part of the West over human 
rights. But the definition of human rights seem limited to an individ- 
ual's right of dissent against the government. Millions of people in a 
country will be made to suffer through sanctions and even bombings in 
order that a few dissenters may enjoy their rights of dissent. Apparently 
the rest of the population, hundreds of millions of them sometimes, 
have no rights. Their rights are not considered human. Thus the depri- 
vation of the right to work for millions resulting from currency trading 
is not considered as violation of human rights. In the Western percep- 
tion, only individuals have rights, the masses do not. 

The concern over child labour and sweatshops is expressive of a 
sense of caring. Unfortimately, the concern is only shown when the 
products of child labour and sweatshops compete successfriUy with the 
products of highly-paid, high-living, four-day-week workers in the de- 
veloped countries, Child labour and sweatshops are not something 
which anyone would defend but consider die extreme poverty of peo- 
ple in some countries. They have no capital, no technology or exper- 




tise, no markets at home, no Harvard-trained managers. All they have 
is low-cost labour. For the workers, the tiny wages that they eam.is far 
better than starvation and death. If we really care, then invest and pay 
high wages and the sweatshops will disappear and adults will earn 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




enough to feed their children. Forcing them to $top child labour and 
sweatshops will only cause more sufferings for their people. Telling 
them to stop giving birth is not a solution either We know that the poor 
have a higher birth rate than the rich, lb stop the population explosion 



which the West is worried about, enrich these people. Stopping their 
sweatshops and children from working will only impoverish.them fur- 
ther and cause them to have more children. 

With the end of East-West confrontation, conflicts have not de- 
creased. The Palestinian problem is still not resolved, but the sanctions 
and bombing of Iraq, sanctions' against Libya, the conflicts resulting 
from the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the stirring up of unrest and 
rebellions or near rebellions by open supports for insurrection go on. 
Before, it was the communists who stirred up rebellion everywhere, in- 
cluding in Malaysia, Now, we have the liberal democrats doing exacdy 
the same in the same manner, complete with supply of arms. Whether 
it is a communist or a liberal democratic insurrection the people suffer 
not one bit less. 

The United Nations seems helpless. Indeed, it is often bypassed by 
the big and powerful. Now, groupings of powerful nations or even one 
nation by itself seems to decide when to step in and when to step out. 
While they like to wield power, they are inordinately unwilling to pay 
the price. Tele-wars are conducted using high technology such as the 
so-called pinpoint bombings in order to avoid the body bags from com- 
ing home. This unwillingness to fece the enemy often results in unnec- 
essary killing of innocent people and destruction of wrong targets. 

Unfortunately, no change could be expected of the United Na- 
tions for as long as it belongs to the five permanent members of the Se- 
curity Council: the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. 
The structure of the United Nations will continue to reflect the glori- 
ous victory of these nations 50 years ago. For the small member states, 
they will have to be satisfied with making annual speeches at the Gen- 
eral Assembly and the various United Nations anniversaries. Occa- 
sionally they would be elected to join the Security Council. Despite at 
least three of the Permanent Five being vociferous advocates of democ- 
racy, there will be no democracy in the United Narions. The only sav- 
ing grace is the good work of its agencies. 

Unfortunately, some in the world body practise rather unusual 
principles. Normally, in order to study, report and pass an opinion or 

17 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



judgment on something, a neutral or unbiased person would be chosen. 
But it was not so when it chose a person well known for his virulent at' 
tacks against the Malaysian judiciary to report on that institution. 

The United Nations then confers on him total immunity against 
the laws of his country without reference to or the consent of the coun- 
try. This immunity apparently extends beyond his task of reporting his 
findings to the world body. He may publish his opinions, defame people 
and the subject of his study anywhere and everywhere. Is there no limit 
to a United Nations commissioner's immunity? 

We are told that governments must not interfere with the judici- 
ary. Yet, in this case, the government is expected to instruct the judici- 
ary not to act against this United Nations commissioner for breaking 
the laws of the country. 

I am not blaming the UN Secretary-General for this; it is the pecu- 
liar system and principles guiding the choice of the United Nations 
commissioner that I find unacceptable. Nor do I think it proper to hint 
at dire consequences for Malaysia if this man is not fi*eed fi-om court ac- 
tion for open contempt and defamation. There is something not right 
here which the United Nations needs to look into. 

However, small countries lack a public forum to air their views 
freely, fiirther curtailed by the Western media that distorts everything 
they say or do. Again we are expected to give immunity to Western 
journalists. They may break our laws but no legal action may be taken 
against them. In Malaysia, everybody is equal before the law, even the 
king and the hereditary sultans are not above the law. 

This then is the scenario of the last quarter of the 20th century. If 
this baggage is carried forward into the 21st century, then the fijture of 
the poor and the weak and of the aspiring tiger and dragon economies 
of Asia does not look too promising as everything will continue to be 
'cooked' in the West. Just as communism and socialism had their ori- 
gins in the West, liberal democracy, globalisation, a borderless world, 

■ 

deregulation, unfettered free flows of capital and their flights to quality, 
the discipliningof governments by market forces and currency traders 
and a host of other ideas all come fi*om the West. And what is from the 
West is universal. Other values and cultures are superfluous and un- 
necessary. If they remain, there will be a clash of civilisations. To avoid 
this, there should be only one civilisation in the world. Everything 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



should be standardised according to Western practices. They may 
change only if the West changes. Thus, the globalised world as envi- 
sioned by the West will be totally uniform in which variety is seen as in- 
transigent and must, therefore, be eliminated. 

Malaysia has just gone through a traumatic experience. In a matter 
of weeks, 42 years of hard work developing the country was destroyed, 
in particular the affirmative -action programme to reduce animosity be- 
tween the races in Malaysia, 

We have devised our own formula for recovery. With the blessings 
of God, we have now turned around and we are on the road to recov- 
ery. But we are being pressured to abandon our selective capital con- 
trols and fixed exchange rate measures. We do not understand why. 
The controls have done us a lot of good. Tliey have done no harm to 
anybody except a few thousand rich currency manipulators. Foreigners 
doing genuine business in Malaysia have profited much from the so- 
called controls. Despite the success of our formula, we are still being 
asked to do away with the controls completely and to conform to the 
international financial system which had enabled uniscrupulous cur- 
rency traders to destroy the wealth of many ngtions. 

No serious attempt is being made to change the international fi- 
nancial system, although so far there is only expression of intention. In 
the meantime, the threat of financial, economic and political destabili- 
sation remains. 

All that we asks for is to be allowed to manage things our own way 
in the interest of our Deoole, We will not harm others. We are not tum- 




We have alwavs coonerated with 



WewUl 



As 



will 



ess if criticism 



the poor and weak, but never at the rich and powerful. In criticising 
others, we are only exercising our right to freedom of expression. 

We are not too enchanted by the prospects we foresee in the 21st 
century. But I can assure you that we will be a responsible nation, 



towards 




and harbouring 




2 



THE POWER 

OF THE PRESS 




THE PRESS is a very powerful institution. It is not called the Fourth 
Estate for nothing. It is one of the powers which determine the fate of 
human society. And it is more so now because your reach has become 
global and more significandy it has overcome distance and time com- 
pletely. You can actually report events across the world and throughout 
the world even as they happen. Nothing, or almost nothing, is left to the 
imagination. 

Such power is frightening. As always such power can be a force for 
enormous good. You can awaken the conscience of the world as you re- 
port graphically the tragedies in different comers of the world. Stories 
about how the financial turmoil in Asia has resulted in children being 
abandoned by their parents and how they are forced to scrounge for 
food in rubbish heaps are heartrending. Then there are those macabre 
reports of bodies being dug from mass graves in Bosnia-Herzegovina! 
One cannot help but feel involved in these tragedies. 

The human race felt elated as the first man stepped on the moon. 
Elsewhere there are reports of more great human achievements. The 
Nobel Prize laureates who discovered the remedies for all kinds of pre- 
viously incurable diseases, those who bravely stood up against injustice 
and those who devised diabolical formulas for making money perpetu- 
ally, without limits. We hear and see them and feel the effects of their 
achievements almost as if we are standing right next to them, hearing 
and feeling them. 




A paper delivered at the opening of the Commonwealth Press Union Biennial 



Conference in Kuala Lumpui; Malaysia, on 




• I 



26. 1998 



21 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Some of the stories spreading through the media are heartwarm- 
ing. Some are true while some are false. Some did happened while some 
are merely figments of the fertile human imagination. 

I have been reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Sir Jef- 
frey Archer, called The Eleventh Comrmmdment. I crave your indulgence 
to relate the plot of the book because it illustrates both the power of the 
media and the good it can do. It is fictional of course but it is neverthe- 
less credible and may happen in real life. 

In this book, the director of the CIA, a tough lady who used to or- 
der the assassination of an embarrassing foreign politician without 
bothering to inform the US President, was castigated by the latter for 
the alleged CIA killing of a Presidential candidate in Columbia. The di- 
rector calmly denied that the assassination was by one of her boys» She 
then decided that the CIA hitman must be liquidated. 

The hitman was sent to Russia to kill another Presidential candi- 
date, a particularly obnoxious ex-communist. The CIA network then 
arranged for the hitman to be arrested by the Russians for the at- 
tempted killing of the candidate who later won the election. The hit- 
man will of course be executed since this is Russia, a country that has 
not yet heard about human rights and the cruelty of legitimately taking 
human lives. 

In the meantime, the wife of the hitman contacted his secretary to 
find his whereabouts. The secretary who was infatuated with our hero 
finally discovers that he is the man reported by a Turkish newspaper to 
have been arrested in Leningrad for the attempted assassination of the 
communist presidential candidate. On her way to inform his wife, she 
gets killed in a road accident arranged by the CIA. 

When the wife finally discovered the fate of her friend, she rang up 
the deputy director of the CIA who promptly denied that he knew any 
such person as the husband of the caller or his secretary. When the wife 
pointed out that he was actually at her party recently and had talked to 
the secretary concerned, he, told her that she must be imagining things 
as he does not know her or had been to her house. 

At this stage she came up with her trump card. It seemed her 
daughter had videotaped the party and there was a scene of him talking 
to the secretary. For good measure she said that the conversation she 
was having with the deputy director was being recorded and if he tried 




22 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



to dispose her off or to search for the tapes, the television networks 
would receive full copies of the videotape of the party and the tele- 
phone conversation. 

At the mention of the television networks getting their hands on 
the tapes, the attitude of the deputy director changed completely. 

Now you can see how powerful the media is in ensuring that justice 
will be done and the miscreants prevented from misusing their power. 




power, 



Lewinsky 



do sympathise with him 



hugged her more times in private, but we don*t have any pictures of 
that. But that one hug had prefeced every report on President Clinton 
whether the subject matter had anything to do with his single instance 
of indiscretion or not. If the CNN is to be believed Bill Clinton has 
hugged Lewinsky a thousand times, twelve times a day ever since CNN 
resurrected that particular episode amongst the file pictures. With the 
passage of time the hug has improved in terms of clarity and vividness. 
There is no mistaking the look of adoration in Lewinsky's eyes and the 
body language of the President of the United States* The viewers, both 
Americans and others, must assume that the President must really 
know Lewinsky intimately and all those stories about the telephone 
calls to the Senators even while he dallied with Lewinsky must be the 
truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the truth. 

I am not a fan of President Clinton, but I do feel that that kind of 
presentation via television is not fair to the President. There is no one 
in the United States who has not seen it and been influenced by it. How 
can anyone sit in judgement over him without being biased, without 
preconception? How can the impeachment of the President be feir and 
just? 

In Malaysia, we are experiencing something similar. We have a se- 
rious political problem made more serious by the manner the problem is 
being presented to the whole world by the all-powerful international 
media. All over the world ministers are dismissed and they normally 
pack their bags and go off. Ministers have also been charged in courts 
even in this country, have been found guilty and in at least one case 
have been sentenced to death. There was no demonstration and 
charges that the courts will be biased. A Malaysian court once declared 



23 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



that the ruling party was illegal and there was nothing the government 
of the party concerned could do about it. 

But unfortunately one minister reHised to go quietly and to be tried 
in the normal manner. The international media sensed an enduring 
scoop. After all, this is one of those backward Asian countries whose 
understanding of justice and fair play is quite limited. This particular 
country had in the past dared to challenge the West and its media, its 
values and its economic and financial theories and practices. I cannot 
help but feel that the international (or more precisely the Western) me- 
dia would like to teach Malaysia a lesson, to pull it down a few pegs 
more. 

Malaysia has never had good press. Somehow, none of the positive 
things we have achieved have been reported. A multiracial country 
that is stable and economically successful is not a subject of interest to 
the powerfiil amongst the international media. But a failure of any kind 
makes good copy. 

And so every time Malaysia appears on the television screen for 
whatever reason, the pictures of rioting and the famous black eye are 
shown. Unflattering comments invariably precede any mention of Ma- 
laysia. The impression given to people all over the world is that Malay- 
sia is in a state of perpetual turmoil, a police state where police brutality 
is a daily (or even an hourly) occurrence. Occasionally pictures of ar- 
moured cars manned by African blacks are shown when reporting 
about the demonstrations without explaining how these Africans came 
to be driving armoured cars in Malaysia. The viewers cannot be blamed 
if they assume that Malaysia is in Africa or Malaysia is in the habit of 
employing African mercenaries to do their dirty work. 

I am not denying that the black eye is real. I regret it happening and 
I am concerned about it. There is a full investigation being made. There 
will be no cover-up and the guilty party will be punished accordingly. I 
must be crazy if I wanted the black eye which the police then paraded 
before the worid through the print and electronic media. Yet the media 
implied that the Malaysian dictator is presiding over a police state 
where giving black-eyes to prisoners is common practice. Indeed, one 
writer said that the sakl subject was beaten to a pulp. 

I am not denying diat there has been some rioting and breaking 
into buildings by the rioters. The police may have been rough but you 




24 








POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



can compare their handling of the demonstrators with the handling by 
European and American law enforcement officers. Invariably the latter 
are more brutal. But of course the governments of these highly civilised 
countries are not described as dictatorial and condoning police brutal- 
ity. Nor are the video clips shown every time there is mention of the 
country concerned. 

I am not advocating that the media report only the good things. All 
I am asking is for the media to be fair, balanced and factual. It is not nec- 
essary to preface every mention of Clinton with him hugging Lewinsky. 
Maybe a few times for viewers who have poor memory. By now there is 
no one in the world who has not seen it. So it is no longer necessary. 

If the media must report on all those agitating against the govern- 
ments of these developing countries, at least give the government side a 
fair exposure as well. The media accuses the Malaysian government 
and those of other developirig countries of controlling the press. But 
isn't the media doing the same. The international media never give the 
government side an airing. In fact they distort reports about the gov- 
ernment and go so far as to fabricate unflattering stories about the gov- 
ernment. 

The government of the country is elected by the people in fair elec- 
tions. Presently an attempt is being made to topple the government 
through street demonstrations and other undemocratic ways. How can 
the media support such attempt and at the same time talk about de- 



Suppo 



undemocratic 



ments. I don't know about other countries but in Malaysia the opposi- 
tion can win elections and go on to form governments. I myself have 
lost an election before, I am perhaps the only dictator who has to stand, 
for elections before dictating. 

In making slanted and distorted reports the media is in fact doing a 



This 



ports and magazines. Tlie analysis made is usually based on the agenda 
of the media concerned. If it is not in favour of a particular country for 
whatever reason or reasons, disinformation is used to blight that coun- 
try. Tourists and investors will then shun the country like plague. At 
times as a result of this the economy of the country worsens and fails 
and the nredictionof instabilitv and turmoil comes true. 




25 





i 



I 

I 

f 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



We are living in an increasingly shrinking world. We are all close 
neighbours in a global village. We should take this closeness to develop 
gcx)d neighbourliness, the kind that is usually found in villages. Only 
good can come out of this. We shouldn't beggar our neighbours. We 
should prosper them instead. We should prosper them not at our ex- 
pense but by mutual help where wealth can expand and be shared by 
all. There is really no need for a zerO'Sum game. You don't have to win 
by causing others to lose. That is what the currency traders believe in; 
impoverishing others in order to make money for themselves. It is not a 
very considerate way of doing things, especially when being considerate 
and caring would cost them next to nothing. 

The media has an important role to play here. It can promote a 
positive concept of neighbourliness. It can help in the shaping of a new 
world culture, a culture of sharing, a culture that will make this global 
village a village of good caring neighbours. The media can help to bring 
about peace and goodwill. 

Yes, there should be the right to know but knowing the inner 
thoughts of parries in conflict and airing them worldwide will not pro- 
mote peace and prosperity if the inner thoughts are not very charitable. 
We all know that we do have nasty thoughts even about our best friends 
but we remain best friends by not telling explicitly about what we really 
think about them. There is no need to know. A little hypocrisy perhaps 
but it is all in the interest of something good. 

So, do we really want to know about everything? Is there really a 
need to know? Has the media not invented this need in order to justify 
a lot of conflict-provoking stories? 

Let us think again. We thought that the Internet would enable 
everyone to correct the untruths in the media reports. But now we are 
seeing lies being spread through the Internet. Again the gifts that we re- 
ceive from the development of new technologies are being abused. 
Somehow, we never leam. 

It is easy to become frustrated. We are not approaching a new cen- 
tury and a new millennium the correct way. We appear to be carrying 
the baggage of past misdeeds and misconceptions along with us. The 
new century is apparently not going to be any better than the century 
we are leaving behind, a century which saw two world wars, killed 200 
million people, and poverty and starvation on an unprecedented scale. 




26 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



The technological advances we have made have only improved our ca- 
pacity to destroy. Nuclear bombs and chemical weapons are suppose to 
make wars no longer a way of resolving disputes between nations. But 
we have very cleverly made these devices "safe" it seems. In the mean- 
time we invent better weapons for more effective killing. 

With all these, what is the role of the media? Merely to report, per- 
haps to incite, to make conflicts worse or to work for a better world. The 
media is powerfi-il, in most instances more powerful than governments 
and politicians. You can make or break anyone and anything. We have 
seen you at work. I have described some of this to you. You should re- 
think your role. You have the power. Please use it wisely for the future of 
mankind. 





17 






3 




















THERE ARE TIMES in the lives of men, as in the lives of nations, 
when so many things happen, so many experiences experienced, so 
much so that the future can never be the same again. Most of Asia has 
lived through such a time recently, and indeed even now. Many Asians 
will not forget for as long as they live the sufferings, the trials and the 
tribulations that they, their families and their peoples went through in 

the last two years. 

It will be difficult to forget those who have shown compassion, who 
have commiserated with us, who have shared our misery and our pain, 
just as it is difficult to forget those who have laughed in our face. It will 
also be difficult to forget those who seemed to have almost relished, to 
have found subliminal comfort, in our discomfiture. It will be difficult to 
forget those who have been completely insensitive to our anguish and 
who have read to us repeatedly the sacred liturgies of liberalisation, 
sometimes so loudly that they even drown the din of distress rising from 
the streets. It is just as difficult to forget those who have laughed in our 
face, were insensitive to our anguish, hit us over the head with the sa- 
cred cablets on which are inscribed the holy mantras of market opening. 

It is difficult to forget those who insisted to us again and again that 
the road to recovery and salvation lay simply in selling off the modest 
femily valuables- it has taken all our lives to earn; those who have in- 
sisted that we must sell at 'fire-sale* prices our homes, our factories, our 
banks, yes, most especially our banks. It is incredible how often ordinar- 

A keynote address delivered at the International Conference on "The Future 
of Asia" organised by Nihon Keizai Shimbun in Tokyo, Japan, on June 3 , 1998 

29 





MAHATHIR MOHAf^AD 



ily intelligent people have expected us to believe that all would be well if 
only we agree to sell our banks at 'fire-sale* prices. Many of them un- 
ashamedly urge us to sell even though they were part of the throng that 
started and stoked the fire. 

It is difficult for many of us in Asia to forget those who gleefully in- 
sisted that they wanted to see blood spilled as we bludgeoned our banks 
and companies into submission before they would believe that we were 
serious about reforms in the management of our economy. 

It is difficult to forget those who stuck to their sacred incantations, 
promising the economic nirvana if we humbly obeyed and threatening 
immediate and divine retribution if we failed to heed the judgment of 
the deities of money and of markets, the gods who must stand above all 
else- Forget the human right of employment, of food for empty tables, of 
children going to school, of medicine for the sick or the simple, the ba- 
sic human need for security in the streets, for peace in the neighbour- 
hood and for personal freedom from violence and tumult. The only 
rights which must be upheld at all cost are the right of the free market, 
the right of capital flows and the right to profiteer through devaluing 




currencies. 



It is important that Asia not to forget the mistakes it made in re- 
cent years. We have all been guilty of many things, in one way or an- 
other. Not one of us is completely innocent. All of us have made grave 
mistakes, some following upon the specific advice of well-known and 
powerful international agencies. 

We must make sure that we never again become victims of the 'ir- 
rational exuberance* that so easily lifts our feet off the ground and 



and most modest of us forget our bearings 
Lcidentallv, only we in East Asia suffer from i 



Wall 



down 



i. However, it is worth remembering the an- 
that those whom the gods wish to destroy 
n modem times, perhaps those whom God 
ces madly euphoric believing that what 



When we in Asia look 



stood by 



important 








POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



In thi^ regard, I would like to place on record my personal apprecia- 
tion and the gratitude of the Malaysian people for the helping hand 
that Japan extended through the Miyazawa Plan and many other steps- 



Japan has not been a fairweather friend. Japan has been an invaluable 
friend. Japan has been a friend in time of grievous need. Many of us will 
never forget this for as long as we live. 

I would also like to thank China for refusing to devalue its currency 
even though it rendered China's products less competitive than Souths 
east Asian products. China's growth was affected and unemployment 
increased. But China was steadfast in not making matters worse for 
Southeast Asia. 

It is now clear that for almost all of us, the worst is over. For almost 
all of us, the road to recovery has been taken and is now being firmly 
travelled. At the same time, it is blatantly obvious that we all still have a 
long way to go to ensure a resumption of the fastest growth run in hu- 
man history. 

To ensure the return of history and the resumption of this sustained 
growth, it is essential that we accomplish three imperatives. First, we 
must build on our strengths. Second, we must continue to reform, 
transform and reinvent our societies. Third, we must set aside pre- 
sumptions and preferences and be utterly pragmatic if we want to en- 
sure the return of sustained growth. We must set aside our sacred cows 
and ensure the firmest commitment to the colourless cat, to doing what 
works. 

Let me briefly outline what I mean. 

Tliere is a big move today to homogenise, to standardise, to make 
uniform, to conform and to blend with the rest. 

In economic terms, there is a huge movement — deliberate and 
non-deliberate, concerted and non-concerted — to turn all Asian 
economies, all economies in fact, into Anglo-Saxon, laissez-faire mar- 
ket economies or what is imagined to be Anglo-Saxon laissez-faire mar- 
ket economies. 

In political terms, there is a huge movement — deliberate and non- 
deliberate, concerted and non-concerted — to turn all Asian political 
systems, indeed all political systems everywhere, into Anglo-Saxon lib- 
eral democracies or what is imagined to be Anglo-Saxon liberal democ- 




racies. 



3t 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




I do not want to be detained by these issues because I believe that 
to a large extent it is simply a function of megapower and the rigid 
power structure at this time in world history. The world's first recorded 
historian, the ancient Greek Thucydides, wrdte more than 2,000 years 
ago that in the affairs of nations the strong will demand what they will 
and the weak must yield what they must. Perhaps one day, we (includ- 
ing the Anglo-Saxon world) might all have to try to be very Swedish or 
Chinese or Nigerian or Brazilian. Perhaps one day we might all have to 
conform to the economic and political systems and preferences of the 
Swedes or the Chinese or the Nigerians or the Brazilians or even the 
Japanese because they have become the strong. 

I do not want to be detained by this issue either because I believe 
that in essence the Anglo-Saxons and their machines are right or 
nearly so. It seems clear enough to me that with all its feults, with all the 
dangers arising from market failure, with all the difficulties of running 
market systems, the development of which takes time and all too often 
goes through the Charles Dickens market economy phase, with all its 
flaws, the market system guided by the social conscience is without 
doubt the most fair and productive system so far devised by mankind 
for the production of economic goods and services. 

It seems very clear to me that democracy, with all its faults, with all 
the dangers arising from democratic failure, with all the difficulties in- 
volved, and despite the fact that good democracies invariably take time 
to evolve, with all these flaws, democracy is without doubt the most fair, 
productive and civilised system so far devised by humanity for the gov- 
ernance of man at least at the level of societies and nations. I notice 
that no one has recently proposed that all CEOs of companies should 
be elected by the workers in the enterprise and almost everywhere in 
the liberal democratic market systems it is assumed that a small group of 
people or organisations called 'shareholders* or 'the majority sharehold- 
ers' who normally have little to do with the daily workings of the com- 
pany should rightly determine who runs the corporation; these ideas 
are not at all democratic, as far as I can fathom. I will not mention the 
United Nations where five is bigger than 180. 

In the final analysis, if we are senfiible and enlightened, we must 
make sure that we are all democracies practising the market system. 

Having said all this, it is essential to state that I cannot imagine that 
Japan would be as comprehensively prosperous in the fiature and as sue- 




32 




POUTICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




cessful as in the past if the Japanese decide to establish within Japan*s 
shores the market system that is found in the United States, Australia 
or Great Britain. I cannot imagine Singapore being as great a success in 
the Riture as it has been in the past if Singapore were to adopt — lock, 
stock and barrel — ^the economic and political systems of the United 
States, the United Kingdom or Australia, admirable though they may 
be for the British, the Americans and the Australians. 

We must surely adopt their best practices, especially those things 
that will do us enormous good. There are assuredly many, many things 



that we are and that we do that are incredibly inferior, incredibly unpro 
ductive, incredibly counterproductive. These must be rooted out. At 
the same time, we in Asia must retain what is good and productive. 

I am not suggesting that our present and future competitors are de- 
liberately trying to make us just like them to weaken us and to make it 
easier for them to compete against us as economies and as societies. It 
would be insane of us to get rid of the strengths of the past which will 
continue to be our strengths in the fiiture. It would be a mistake of his- 
torical proportions to be flabby and weak and depart from family values, 
to be undisciplined, to give up our fixation on harmony and consensus, 
to abandon our commitment to high savings and deferred gratification, 
to hard work, to depart from our almost pathological fixation on educa- 
tion, to abandon our belief in personal sacrifice in itself and personal 
sacrifice for the good of family, community and nation. 

I am not one who believes that self-sacrifice is a 'mug's game*. I do 
not believe that patriotism is a dirty word. 

Having argued like a good conservative, let me now argue like a 
good radical. 

Building on our strengths does not mean resting on our laurels or 
holding on to the fond features of our past or even the strengths of the 
past which are no longer utterly productive for our journey into the fii- 
ture, the new century and the new millennium. 

In the days ahead, we must continue with the needed reformation 
and reinvention of our economies and every critical aspect of our socie- 
ties. This is what we have done for over a generation* It is something we 
must do over the coming hundred years. 

Lest anyone forget, Asia today is not the Asia of 10 years ago. The 



Asia of today is radically different from the Asia of twenty years ago. 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Tlie Asia of today is unrecognisably different from the Asia of 50 years 
ago. Yoii in Japan know that yon can say this of Japan. Let me assure you 
that you can say this not only of Japan but of all of Asia. 

It is because we have reformed and reinvented ourselves again and 
again that we have come to where we are. Quite obviously, we now 
have to make the next great leap, a task made easier because of the cri- 
sis that we have gone through. 

As a result of what we have gone through, it is clear that govern- 
ments cannot stand aloof and let markets run riot. There is a great deal 
of magic in the marketplace. There is a great deal of magic in the 'invis- 
ible hand'. But very often that 'invisible hand* works best when it is 
given the assistance of the 'helping hand* of enlightened governance, 
whether it comes from central banks, regulatory agencies or elected 
governments, or all of the above. 

There are now many who believe that the severe economic crisis 
that have hit the tiger and dragon economies in the last two years are 
entirely or largely the result of the grave weaknesses of each of these ti- 
ger and dragon economies, This simple explanation is very neat and 
very convenient, except that it is simply not credible. 

It is incredible how many, especially those outside Asia, say that 
everything is the function of 'Rmdamentals*. The fact is that so much 
that has happened is not the result of 'fundamentals' but rather, the re- 
sult of '^unn^fmentals', the result of frmny things knocking about in the 
head of intelligent humans behaving like silly animals in a herd. 

If the reason for our concerted collapses is that we were all rotten to 
the core, it is surprising that no one really noticed that this was so until 
the currency attacks started to destroy our currencies. The hardnosed 
bankers and market savvy equity investors were certainly pouring 
money in. Tlie International Monetary Fund (IMF) was still handing 
out bouquets and embarrassingly wholesome praise almost up to the 
time disaster struck. 

If the causes of the mayhem were internal to the tiger and dragon 
economies, how was it that we all got rotten at exacdy the same time? 
The currency attacks and collapses can be documented day by day, 
hour by hour. What perfect timing we in East Asia had! So perfectly 
synchronised, like the high-kicking chorus girls. 





34 






causes 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



economies, even now, widely recognised as still having some of the best 
economic fundamentals in the world were grievously hit and the hun- 
dred other economies with clearly much worse fundamentals repose in 
pristine tranquillity. 

Most of us manage companies or work for companies. Let me ask 
you how you would be today if all of a sudden the worth of what you sell 
is halved because currencies have plummeted in value, if the weight of 
your foreign debt burden doubles, if because interest rates are two to 
three times higher, if the value of your shares goes down by up to 90 per 
cent, if regardless of the orders on your book, no banker is prepared to 
lend to you even one cent for your production needs. 

We in Asia must work for fundamental reform of the international 



about 



reform going beyond 



burning. 



East Asia 



In the face of the world's fiailure to achieve this, each nation must 
fend for itself as best as it can. And we have no choice but to reengineer, 
reform and reinvent ourselves: strengthening our strengths and weak- 
ening our weaknesses. 

Like all nations, we all have so many weaknesses. Our people are 
inadequately creative, poorly trained and empowered. We must fight 
and destroy cronyism. We must fight and eradicate corruption. We 
must improve the governance of our states, even as we improve the 
governance of our corporations. We must be more transparent and 
truthfiil not only to foreign portfolio investors and foreign bankers who 
want us to make our world to suit their needs and desires but also to our 
own governments, to our own investors and bankers and to our own 
people. The agenda for progress and change is a very long one. 

Let me say a few words about the third imperative: the need to be 
utterly pragmatic, to do what works and to abandon quickly what does 
not, to commit ourselves to the colourless cat. As one of the great lead- 
ers of this century said, "It does not matter whether the cat is black or 
white, so long as it catches the mice." 

In the face of the economic crisis which hit East Asia beginning 
July 2, 1997, we in Malaysia tried almost everything. 



35 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Our companies were bleeding to death. In that phase when some 
of us were greatly influenced by the IMF formula^ we adopted the tradi- 
tional remedy of bleeding the patient. Our companies were gasping for 
air. So we sucked the oxygen out. We raised interest rates to levels 
which left them in a vacuum. They were dying of thirst. So we took the 
water away. When expenditures and investments and consumption 
was falling through the floor, and despite many years of budgetary sur- 
pluses, we cut down government expenditure by more than 20 per 
cent. 

The central reason why we adopted all the wrong policies was be- 
cause we were told they were wrong, they weren't the right thing to do. 
We were too well educated in the sacred doctrines of ensuring the freest 
possible capital flows. We were captives of our own economic ortho- 
doxy, the orthodoxy that had resulted in Malaysia having one of the 
freest currency regimes in the world, freer even than that of the United 
States on August 3 1 , 1998. 

On September 1, 1998, we put rationality and pragmatism back in 
command. We jettisoned the sacred texts and our own stem economic 
orthodoxy. We deinterruwonaUsed our currency, placing it out of reach 
of the currency traders. We fixed our ringgit at 3.80 to the US dollar. 
And we made it illegal for foreigners to export the proceeds from their 
equity investment before September 1, 1999. As you know, this third 
provision has now been lifted. 

For months after September 1, 1998, we were condemned by all 
the custodians of economic correctness. On the front pages of major 
newsmagazines, we were said to have turned our back on the world, to 
have cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. We were said to be 
closing down the free -market system, when all we did was close down 
the speculative and wildly volatile market in the Malaysian ringgit. 

The closing down of the speculative market in Malaysian ringgit 
allowed us to do all the things that needed to be done, that were not 
possible before. It allowed us to drastically cut interest rates. The banks 
were strongly encouraged to resume lending. We opted for an expan- 
sionary fiscal policy. 

So far, the utter pragmatism of September 1 , 1 998 has yielded dra- 
matic results. In August 1 998, there was a mood of despair amongst the 
business community. Now, there is hope and great expectations. The 




POUTICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 






Malaysian government has held to its forecast of 1 per cent growth for 
1999. Salomon Smith Barney says that it will be more than 1 per cent. 
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs say 
growth will go to 2 per cent. SG Securities says it will be 2.5 per cent. 
Credit Suisse First Boston and the IMF says Malaysia will grow by 3 per 
cent in 1999. 

I do not wish to argue that selective currency controls such as those 
introduced by Malaysia in September 1998 is for all economies, or that 
it is good in normal times. There are conditions under which success is 
more likely, and conditions under which currency controls even as se- 
lective as those of Malaysia could be disastrous. Some World Bank ex- 
perts have informed us that we are the first case they have come across 
of a country which is trying merely to stabilise the currency and is pre- 
pared to sustain an undervalued currency even in a situation of massive 
trade surpluses and current-account surpluses. Most currency control 
regimes are attempts to sustain an unsustainable overvalued currency. 
Malaysia's decision to stabilise a clearly undervalued currency ensures 
capital flight does not take place, ensures that there is no black market 
in Malaysian currency anywhere in the world. Far from seeing a massive 
outflow, there has been substantial capital inflow. 

Although I do not recommend selective currency control to any- 
one, I do indeed wish to stress the necessity for cold-blooded pragma- 
tism for everyone, in all parts of the world, under any circumstance. 
One lesson to be learnt from the economic crisis was the need to take a 
firm stand and be confident of one's abilities and capabilities. 

I have spoken a great deal about the present. Let me say a few 
words about the future and the new millennium. 

As you know, a thousand years ago, as mankind moved towards 
the second millennium, the then so-called 'known* and 'civilised world* 
of Europe was apparently in the grips of despair. The then custodians of 
the correct, the then champions of orthodoxy, the then keeper of the 
truths, the learned Christian clerics, and therefore, the peoples of 
Europe, were convinced that exactly a thousand years after the birth of 
Jesus Christ the world would come to an end. 

Doomsday was at hand; commerce and industry therefore had al- 
most come to a screeching halt. Human enterprise and endeavour 
wound down. Many lived in abject fear of the days to come. 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




What was the point of working, or planning, or even plotting for 
the fliture if the world was coming to an end? As the second millen- 
nium approached, all that was to be done was to prepare for the apoca- 



Today, as we approach the third millennium, many people have 
written Asia off. For many years now, so many have characterised Japan 
as being not quite dead but not quite alive. Only very recendy, the rest 
of us have been consigned to the dustbin of history. 



As my remarks suggest, if many people in Asia have feared for their 
fi-iture, they have been no less than wise. If we now continue to have 
doubts, this is a welcome source of strength* But now is the time for 
hope. And for heroic efforts. 

We must hope for a better and even more prosperous Asia. We 
must hope for a better and more prosperous world. We must prepare 
ourselves for a global *boomsday', not doomsday, as the new millen- 
nium approaches. 

In the new millennium, we Asians must work diligently and with 
determination for a new beginning, not just for Asia but for the world. 
This must be a task not only for Asia but also for Europe, for the Ameri- 
cas and for Africa; it is a job for all the colours and creeds of mankind, 
from every core and comer of mankind. We must collectively build, for 
the first time in world history, a single global commonwealth of com- 
mon wealth and co-prosperity, where the full dignity of all the children 
of Adam will be catered for and nourished, where all will enjoy the 

fruits of justice and the bounty of labour. 

I have menrioned the children of Adam. Let me be more literal. 
Let me end my remarks with a few words on the young on whose shoul- 
ders will lie the duty of ensuring a new beginning for mankind in the 
new century. 

I hope that the young of Asia will be able to throw off the. excess 
and heavy baggage of history which will only be a drag on their journey. 
Tlie youths of the 2 1st century must think of themselves as true citizens 
of the world. They must forget colour and creed, notions of superiority 
and inferiority and think of equality not in terms of material wealth 
alone but also in terms of mutual res{>ect and mutual regard. 

The borderless world in which they live must not be borderless 
only in terms of information and capital flow, but in terms of the physi- 



38 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




cal world. I believe it must also be borderless in the true sense — in terms 
of the frontiers we erect in our minds. 

Individuals must be judged on the size of their contribution and the 
content of their character rather than in terms of the shape of their 
eyes, the colour of their skin, the width of their wallet or the cudgel in 
their hands. 

Let me also implore the youth of today who must build the future 
to make sure that there will be no clash of civilisations; let me implore 
them to be wedded to the ideal of ensuring a feast, not a clash, of civili- 
sations, but a celebration of civilisations, where all of mankind shall be 
invited to feast at the sumptuous table the incredible smorgasbord of 
human diversity; where all will be allowed to feast as they choose and to 
selectively imbibe what they think best and what best suits their palate. 

The youths of the 21st century must fully understand that the 
world is round and that no country is truly east or west, except in rela- 
tion to one another They must regard the whole planet as their earth, a 
single country, the object of their ultimate loyalty. 

National traditions and cultures they must retain. But all traditions 
and cultures are of equal importance, of equal worth, worthy of being 
respected by all in the common, single community of mankind. 

Most of us are no longer young however young at heart we think 
we are. Let us reflect on what we have seen within our own lifetimes 



that have happened 



about liberty and freedom and democracy 
in London, Paris and Amsterdam: onlv to 



Asia 



We heard about liberte* We 



We heard about fratemiti 
ialism. authoritarian dictat 



Therefore 
1 chains. 



So many things were 'impossible'. Impossible certainly for those of 
us who were clearly 'inferior', 'inadequate' or 'uncivilised*. The world I 
grew up in was a world of very, very limited possibilities. I was fortunate 
in being inadequately schooled as to what I must not aspire to for myself 
and for my people. I was fortunate in being inadequately aware of the 




39 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



arm 




was, I was not aware of the places I could not reach. 

The young people of today, the builders of tomorrow, must not he 
corrupted hy the corruption of powerlessness. Be fully empowered. Go 
forth and create a new and better world than we of the older generation 
have been able to build. The 2 1st century and a new millennium awaits 

you. 



40 




4 
SOCIALISM, 



COMMU 



CAPITALI 




Asia 



the privili 



room 



CTni 



too 




LIBERAL DEMOCRACY 



will be amongst the best and brightest of your generation. You attend 
some of the leading institutions of learning on earth. You excel in your 



irampower 



I truly envy you, your youth and the idealism that you possess. You 



things for the better and create a better world. I am glad for that for 
when the young lose hope there will be no fiiture any more. 



We 



We 



dren, killing even their parents. More and more youths are going miss- 



God. Allah 



Tlie 



And 



equipped with knowledge and skills than the youths of yesteryear. Cer- 
tainly in terms of information they are better than their elders. They are 
less inhibited, approaching their powerful new tools with none of the 
fear and lack of .conviction of the capabilities of these instruments. 
Tliey think everything is possible. 



A paper delivered at the 1998 Harvard Project for Asian and International 
Relations Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 28, 1998 



41 




QlilQ 



B 



Q 



POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



They 



The 



expelled challeng 



But some developed sustainable large communities governed by 
complex customs, rules and laws. A feudal system emerged based on 
some kind of divine hereditary leadership. To the feudal lords and 
kings, total submission was imperative. But in return there was law and 
order, relief from anarchy and the need to submit to numerous bullies 
and their arbitrary ways. Life became relatively safe for the ordinary 
people, free from conflicting rules. As more and more people sought to 
live under strong single chiefs, they evolved into kings and emperors us- 
ing the loyalty of their subjects to subjugate others and expand their 



god 



king 



above attack by 



And 



wrong 



took 



of them and exercised the power of life and death over them. 

The pendulum swings, went past the centre, getting further and 
further away from the ideal; the King as the protector, the law-giver, the 
dispenser of justice. The King and kingship became synonymous with 
injustice and oppression. 

Fear prevented opposition. The few who opposed were liquidated. 
Fear was heightened. Brave men emerged to challenge, to face personal 
threat to life, to fece death even. The momentum gathered. The swing 
of the pendulum was reversed. Several times the kingly ideal was resus- 
citated. But kingly extremism and oppression came back. Finally feu- 
dalism and kingship had to be discarded to be replaced by the rule of the 
people. But there were too many people. Someone or some group must 
rule. Liberal democracy, socialism and communism were invented to 
enable the rule of the people to work. 

Socialism conferred rights to workers. But workers abused the 
rights and the state suffered and went into decline* Communism gave 
rise to the dictatorship of the proletariat. But the dictatorship over- 
whelmed the proletariat. The state, meaning the few who gained power 




43 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



oppressed the people. The state apparatus consumed all the wealth 
leaving the people as poor and as exploited as ever. 

In the end after almost one hundred years of loyalty to a system 
which dispensed injustice and oppression, socialism and communism 
were discredited and discarded leaving liberal democracy triumphant. 
Will liberal democracy always uphold liberalism, impartiality and dedi- 
cation to justice and fair play? 

Actually liberal democracy evolved from blatant capitalism. Faced 
with the challenge of socialism and communism, capitalism presents a 
more friendly face. Extreme greed was curbed. Profits were taxed in or- 
der that the less fortunate members of society could get a fair share. 
Monopolies were broken up and made illegal. Regulations were intro^- 
duced to prevent abuses of the free-nftarket system. Workers were given 
the rights to bargain, backed by industrial action. Finally the people 
were allowed to choose the different permutations of liberal democ- 
racy. All the while the fear of communism in particular kept extreme 
capitalism at bay, regulated and controlled. To prevent the elimination 
of capitalism, the name was changed- The free market was promoted in 
which the capitalist could survive albeit in a controlled environment. 
All the while the challenge of socialism and communism forced the out 
and out capitalists to curb their greed and to submit to the people's gov- 
ernments. 

But the abuses of socialist and communist principles lead to social- 
ism and communism being discredited and defeated. With this the 
capitalism-based free market became free of competitors. The friendly 
face became necessary no more. And from behind the mask of friendli- 
ness the ugly face of unmitigated capitalism emerged. With nothing to 
restrain it, the pendulum gathers speed and overcame all the old obsta- 
cles to its swing. Naked capitalism can no longer be obstructed by gov- 
ernments or international agencies, or anyone for that matter. 

This is what we are witnessing today. Governments have abdi- 
cated their roles in favour of those who control capital- From now on 
the people who control money will run the world with only one objec- 
tive — to make more money. If it becomes necessary to overthrow gov- 
ernments in order to do so, then governments will be overthrown. This 
is the new ideology, so powerful that it is the only one permitted. No op- 
position will be tolemted. Still in order to hide the ugly face of absolute 
capitalism, it is now renamed market forces. 







POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



In the heyday of feudalism, empires were built by conquest or by 
marriage between ruling families. In this new era of unlimited capital- 
ism acquisitions and mergers achieve the same objectives. Instead of 
imperial states there are now empire-sized businesses. Banks absorb lit- 
tle banks and merge with big ones to become bigger. And the process 
will go on until there will be only two or three banks in the world. In- 
dustries will merge or acquire controlling interests. A few hotel chains 
and restaurant chains will cater to all the needs of people worldwide. 
Air and sea transport companies will merge and absorb competitors or 
put them out of business if they refuse. The electronic and print media 
have been subjected to the same amalgamation and central control. 
This is to ensure press freedom, so that everyone will read the same 
news from the same free source. News contrary to those coming from 
the free source must by definition be considered not free. And such 

must be curbed, and prevented from reaching the free masses. 
The masses must be freed from access to unfiree news. 

Tliere is no conspiracy. It is just that the free market works that 
way and brings about that result. The free press will not tolerate anyone 
suggesting that what is happening is caused otherwise than through the 
workings of a free market. And the free market is good for the world. 
Why should anyone want to say otherwise? If they do then they are 
against freedom. And people who are against freedom should not enjoy 
any freedom. TTiey must be discredited and punished and rendered in- 
effective, 

When absolute rulers and dictators preside over a country, law and 
order is based on fear, varying degrees of fear, fear for personal safety, 
fear of deprivations of one kind or another and fear for the well-being of 



the family or the community. 
Thank God 



power 



way i.e. through fear. But the object and the scale is different. Tliey are 
much bigger and they are getting even bigger, involving nations at ftrst 
but now whole region and continents. 

In currency devaluation and depressing the stock market, the new 
capitalists have found the most effective iristrument for creating fear. 



poverty 



The 



chase anything is reduced by the percentage of the currency devalu 



45 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




ation. It is as if a country with a GDP of US$ 100 billion has lost US$50 
billion. The per capita of US$5,000 is reduced to US$2,500. The assets 
of companies shrink by 50 per cent if the currency is devalued by 50 per 
cent. And so if an individual, company or government owes money the 
capacity to repay is reduced by half Put the other way round the debts 
have doubled without any additional borrowing. 

Add to this the fall in share prices say by 50 per cent, the market 
capitalisation will be reduced by the same percentage. The capacity to 
raise loans based on assets will be halved. But the local lenders too may 
have their capital reduced and not be in a position to lend. In feet they 
may have to foreclose if the borrowers cannot top up. With the econ- 
omy in recession due to the currency devaluation the borrowers cannot 
make sufficient in order to top up. The shares are sold oiFby the lender 
to a weak market which will of course cause a further fall in the share 
prices, reducing further market capitalisation. 

The money in the system diminishes in amount but foreign bor- 
rowing to replenish assets would increase the nation's debt further. If 
there is high foreign borrowing then the ratio of debt against GNP will 
deteriorate, causing a loss of confidence on the part of the market. This 
will start another round of attacks resulting in further devaluation of 
the currency and market capitalisation. Yet not borrowing will result in 
no credit being available to the banks and companies hit by the double 
whammy of currency devaluation and share market collapse. 

The country cannot go against the market forces because to do so 
would result in a loss of confidence and another round of attack. But if 
money is tight and interest rates are raised in order to prevent further 
devaluation, the businesses will all go bankrupt. Along with the busi- 
nesses there will be massive lay-off of workers including executives. 
Massive unemployment not only result in loss of revenue for the gov- 
ernment but decrease in retail businesses. This in turn affects support- 
ing businesses such as transport and other services and of course the im- 
port of goods. When goods are not imported, then import duties will di- 
minish, further shrinking government revenue. All these add up to 
massive loss of revenue on the part of the government. Paying the ad- 
ministrative machinery may become impossible. 

Obviously a country which is the target of an attack will be caught 
between the devil and the deep blue sea. To maintain the confidence of 
the market forces it will have to increase interest rates, reduce credit, 




46 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



increase taxes and remove subsidies, These measures will bankrupt 



companies, throw workers out of jobs and induce riots and political in- 
stability. Eventually the country will go bankrupt and foreigners will 
buy up all the good companies at a cheap price. 

■ 

On the other hand, if the country defies market forces and try to 
keep interest rates low, borrow money to replenish the system and res- 
cue beleaguered business there will be another round of attack by mar- 
ket forces resulting in further devaluation of the currency, more capital 
loss in the market, bankruptcies of the banks and businesses, further re- 
duction of government revenue and economic disaster for the country. 
There really is no choice but to submit to market forces. 

Who are the market forces which can so easily impoverish coun- 
tries and undermine the independence of nations? Are they the people 
in the market place who buy and sell goods and services? Are they the 
wholesalers and distributors? They are none of these. They are actually 
a shadowy small group who trade by changing figures on computers lo- 
cated in the currency trading rooms all over the world. No real money is 
involved. No money change hands. No money moves anywhere. The 
transactions are merely made on computer screens and recorded 

through changes in the figure. Millions may be traded in a matter of 
seconds or minutes. Millions may be made or lost. But the effect on 
whole nations and people is devastating. Suddenly as a result of the fig- 
ures changing, people, nations and even regions become greatly impov- 
erished. Nations can be bankrupted, with millions being thrown out of 
jobs. 

But when this tragedy is mentioned the only reply is a bland *that is 
what currency trading is all about*. They, the traders act according to 
herd instincts. If they see movements in one direction then everyone 
moves in that direction. If someone sells then everyone sells. And so 
the devaluation gains speed. Get their leader to regain his confidence 
and everyone Avill follow. 

It is a sad commentary on the level of human development that 
people, intelligent people, should behave like herds of catde. But they 
seem to glory in their herd behaviour. Peoplewho criticise them are re- 
ganied as financial ignoramuses, as dim-witted and deserving of what- 
ever ill^fortune may befall them or their country. 




^7 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Tliis conference is not going to put an end to this exploitation of 
the poor by the market forces. It is not even going to bring relief to the 
beleaguered East Asian countries, the former tigers and dragons. But 
this conference is about Asian and International Relations. Obviously 
it has to examine the relations between Asian countries and the rest of 
the world and also between themselves. 

What I have tried to illustrate is the distance ofF-centre that the 
capitalist free market pendulum has swimg. We have become such be- 
lievers in the system that we no longer care for the original objectives or 
the obvious results. A system that was designed to free people from sti- 
fling governmental regulations and enable them to prosper through 
their own initiatives and labour has now resulted in the suppression of 
that very freedom and brought about misery for the people instead. 
And that misery is very real. Millions are suffering, whole nations and 
even regions are suffering. All that is offered by way of justification is 
that they have suffered because their governments are not open and 
democratic. 

It reminds me of a television report on the shooting of demonstra- 
tors by the law enforcement forces of a certain state. At the end of the 
episode, the commentator said by way of mitigation, "But at least this is 
the only democratic state in the region." Being democratic excuses all, 
even the killing of people. If you are not democratic then even if you 
bring prosperity to the country and the people, you must still be consid- 
ered wrong and you must be disciplined and chastised. 

The free -market system is good. Certainly it is better than the cen- 
trally planned economy of the communists. But the free market now 
translates into unrestrained dominance of the rich over the poor, the 
strong over the weak. Apart from calling capitalism "market forces" it is 
no better than the inconsiderate capitalism of the past; the capitalism 
that brought about the violent reactions and the birth of socialism and 



communism. 



be 



market and market forces, which is capitalism by another name? Can 



pnnci] 



maximum 



:opagating feudal 



God-given and God-sanctioned system. The Kings were 



48 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




defenders of thefeith, the symbol of Gods rule over this earth. The peo- 
ple must not complain even if the feudal oppression was contrary to the 
teachings of the feith. If you question, worse still if you rebel, then you 
are a heretic. Many were the unfortunates who were burnt at the stakes 
or had heir heads chopped off for being heretical 

Today the religion is liberal democracy and its corollary, the free 
market. The priests are the ever more liberal democrats and the free 
marketeers. They no longer bum heretics at the stakes nor chop off 
their heads. They merely apply sanctions or devalue the currency. The 
results are the same — people and states live in fear. They submit rather 
than resist. 

In the past religions and sacred books were used to cow people. To- 
day the media does a better job. As in the past when only the priests 
could read and interpret the holy books anyway they liked, today the 
media is manipulated by the media-moguls in the same way. Heresy 
and opposition of any kind is forbidden by them. Conform or be si- 
lenced etemally. If given an opportunity to air your heretical views, 
then those views are immediately debunked and debunked until the 
heretic himself begins to doubt his own views and his sanity. It is brain- 
washing on a worldwide scale and it is made possible by the new capital- 
ism which promotes oligopolies on a world scale in the media industry. 

If an idea is mooted that will further strengthen the grip of the oli- 
gopolistic system the world's media would take it up, argue in its fevour, 
propagate it and make sure the contrary views are negated. There was a 
time when the world was divided between a number of western em- 
pires. It was justified because it was said to be civilising. It is the white 
man's burden to bring modernity to the backward ignorant peoples 
who knew no better. Of course in the process the white man made a 
tidy profit for themselves and their own countries. But the point is their 
colonisation brought the fruits of civilisation to the backward people. 

But somehow or other the conflicts between the imperial west lead 
to new thinking about the white man's burden. It was exposed as noth- 
ing more than an .attempt to justify exploitation. Gradually this de- 
bunking gained ground and there was a crusade to dismantle empires. 
And so the colonies gained independence. 

For a time they enjoyed their independence. Some messed up 



things but there were others who profited from these independence, 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



developed and even challenged dieir fonner masters in their own back- 
yards. Their impertinence was made possible by the Cold War when 
the champions of both sides felt a need to prevent the other from gain- 
ing influence in the new independent countries. These countries also 
made full use of the options to defect. 

Then the bipolar world ended leaving a world dominated only by 
the liberal democratic free marketeers. The need to win support from 



the small nations disappeared. Without the options to defect the weak 
nations had to submit to the sole remaining system* 

Without the restraining effect of the competition the wirmers have 
begun to run wild. The old ideas about the need to civilise the back- 
ward people have returned with a vengeance. Only this time the pres- 
sures are stronger and more widely spread. 

Democracy is still evolving. New ideas are being thrown up all the 
time. Deregulation, liberalisation and globalisation are now being 
equated with the freedoms of democracy- It is the right of the peoples of 
the world to have free choice of the best of goods and services. The gov- 
ernments should not deprive their peoples of this right. They should 
not use their borders to protect inefficiency and inferiority of goods or 
services. They should open up their borders, should deregulate, should 
liberalise in order to allow access of the biggest, the best, and the most 
efficient. 

And as usual the cry is taken up by the free world media. They pro- 
mote these new concepts and tolerate no opposition. Anyone who op- 
poses the words of the free media must by definition be against freedom. 



liberalisation 



There should 



freedom 



deregulation and liberalisation 



rich and the powerful, as in the past and civilising the natives gave 
profit to the propagators of the civilising work, that is coincidental. It so 

happens and the fact that it happens should not detmct from the good 
that was intended. 



twists to liberal democracy 
the expense of the poor oi 



Ignore 



50 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



into consideration the results also? Can international relations be based 
entirely on good intentions while ignoring the bad results? 

Asians have dared to speak about Asian values. We dared to say 
that Asian values made tigers and dragons of our countries. We dared 
to assert that Asian values are superior and are actually the right uni- 
versal values. 

Today all the Asian countries are in a state of turmoil and regres- 
sion. Many say that Asian values have been the cause of this regression. 
Asians condoned corruption, nepotism, crony capitalism, etc. But is it 
true that Asian values and practices brought the misfortune that are 
faced by them today? Isn't Western greed also responsible? Isn't the new 
capitalism, the market and the forces that move it, the singleminded 
quest for profit not equally or more responsible? 

In the conduct of international relations, can we afford to be just 
fanatical followers of an ideology or should we examine the results as 
well? How many times have our systems and our ideologies gone 
wrong? Feudalism, socialism, communism — these are all systems which 
were fervently believed to be right and good for human society at one 
time. They have all failed. Could it not be that the new ideology, the 
free market and market forces, globalisation, liberalisation, deregula- 
tion, absolute freedom, etc may eventually be proven equally wrong, 
that they will lead to human misery, to the strain in the relations be- 
tween nations, to war even as the oppressed struggle to liberate them- 
selves once more from their erstwhile colonisers. 

You are here to discuss a subject that is very relevant and important 
to the friture of relations between nations in particular Asian countries 
and international relations. You are not going to solve any problem 
overnight. But your deliberation and findings will have some bearing 
on the thinking about current issues and human relations* 

There are many things you can discuss. The United Nations, arms 
control, nuclear and conventional, eradication of poverty, human 
rights, etc. Certainly the subjects I have mentioned are amongst them. 
You may regard them as irrelevant and unimportant. That is your right. 
But it is also my right to draw your attention to the great injustice per- 
petrated on the innocent peoples of Southeast Asia in the name of de- 
mocracy and the free market. 




51 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



It seems therefore that you have a great many things to mull over 
and to think about if you want to make a difference with your lives. 
Some of the things you will decide to do may require great moral cour- 
age and even sacrifice. You may have to stand up against powerful odds. 
Tremendous pressures can be put upon you to desist, to conform and 
not to rock the boat or criticise the prevailing scheme of things. You can 
be labelled and stigmatised. 

But there is also great satisfaction to be had firom working for the 
good. Few things of moment are achieved without a struggle. And if 
some stand against you, there will also be many who will stand by and 
with you. In the end history will reward you. Do not ever be tempted to 
take the low road. Choose the higher path, And may God be with you 
every step of the way. 







5 



ASIA 



5 













OF THE 21 ST CENTURY 




AS WE APPROACH the 21st century, it is perhaps useRiI to be re- 
minded that we must do so with caution, in the knowledge that there 
are many reasons for pessimism and no grounds whatsoever for ideal- 
ism built on the sands of illusion. 

Perhaps it is useful to let history remind us that a hundred years 
ago, as the world stood a tiptoe away from the 20th century, so many 
were so optimistic about the incredible possibilities for the friture of 
mankind. All seemed possible. A new century was at hand. Or so it 
seemed. 

After all, since 1871, there had been no major war in Europe, the 
main manufacturer of global history, the centre of the world and of hu- 
man civilisation. Remarkable medical and scientific breakthroughs 
were being made by the day. The fruits of technology, science and 
medicine were spreading far and wide. Electricity was lighting up the 
globe. Telephony was wiring it together. People, trade and commerce 
were moving almost as if the world was borderless. If they had known of 
the word, the great thinkers of the period would have spoken of "global- 
isation'* and of a force that would span the chasms, bridge the gaps, 
bringing countries and nations closer together in a single humanity* 

From the vantage of the centre of the world, people were eating 
better. They were happier, or should be happier. They were better edu- 
cated. Certainly, by the standards of the past, massive numbers of peo- 

A speech on "Asia's Place and Role in the Making of the Global Common- 
wealth of the 21st Century" in London, United Kingdom, on October 21, 
1997 



53 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




pie were going to schools and advancing to universities* Literacy was 
spreading like wildfire. Rigid social stratification was eroding. Social in- 
equities were nan-owing. Dickensian capitalism was being replaced by a 
nicer, gender and even more productive capitalism. Feudalism and all 
its trappings seemed to be losing ground. Greater egalitarianism. 
Greater cosmopolitanism, A new internationalism. 

The great Age of Imperialism was settling down and was seen to be 
yielding great humanitarian returns, not only for the imperialist but also 
for the imperialised. The White Man s Burden was being borne in every 
nook and comer of the world and the natives seemed to be responding 
well Why, quite a few of them were even going to Oxford and Cam- 
bridge, There was fascination with China. The "Yellow Peril", as an 
idea, had not yet been bom. Missionaries were everywhere spreading 
the word of Christ. The real Age of Reason seemed to be truly in the 
offing. 

From today*s perspective, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we 
know that the great optimism of a hundred years ago was most unjusti- 
fied. 

To be sure, some wondrous things have happened. It will not be 
long before Macau's sovereignty is returned to China, so that no part of 
mainland Asia will for the first time in many centuries be under the 
yoke of any outside colonial power. Thank God, old-fashioned political 
decolonisation is now almost totally complete — ^although many still do 
not understand to this day the enormous psychological and cultural 
costs that it exacted from those who were colonised. An astounding 
phenomenon has been seen in East Asia, which has brought massive 
material advancement to numbers of the human race such as the world 
has never seen before — at speeds never before seen in the history of 
mankind. 

But is it not a shame that the immense promise of the 20th century, 
so palpably felt a hundred years ago, was so frustrated and so perverted? 

The 20th century should have been the century of peace, dedi- 
cated to the rejoicing of life. Instead, it has been the century of 
megadeath. The 20th century should have been a century of prosperity, 
common and cooperative prosperity. Instead, it has been the century of 
megamisery. The 20th century should have been the century of civili- 
sation and of the celebration of civilisations. Instead, at its tailend, so 



54 






POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



many, especially those in the North Atlantic cultural core, still cannot 
accept a culturally plural world. 

Crass political imperialism may well be dead. But crass cultural im- 
perialism is still alive and kicking. Not only are apologies not made for 
cultural hegemonism, but sometimes, with incredible myopia, cultural 
hegemonism is touted as a moral cause and a holy crusade. People eve- 
rywhere are being told what is right and what is wrong and how they 
should behave. Tliey are punished for not doing as they are told. I pray 
that a few decades from now, well meaning and equally holy yellow 
men will not be descending upon humanity, telling them what is right 
and what is wrong and how they should behave — and punishing those 
who do not do as they are told. Today, mutual respect has to be fought 
for in a politico-cultural ambience of fear, prejudice and hatred stirred 
up by those who believe that after the long war, a new long war is neces- 
sary or unavoidable because of the inevitable clash of civilisations. 

In the 20th century, we could have done so much to abolish abso- 
lute poverty totally, to wipe it off the face of the earth. Yet what do we 
find? Megamisery such as the world has never seen. 

I do not condemn the few thousand billionaires who collectively 
have more wealth than a few thousand million human beings, many of 
whom are on this very day starving to death or who are precariously 
perched on the edge of starvation. Don't get me wrong. I have the ut- 
most respect for those great men of wealth who have built with their 
own hands the massive fortunes which they now command. This admi- 
ration, I am advised, is very politically correct. I am also advised that it is 
definitely not at all fashionable to even mention the starving unmen- 
tionables. They are best left forgotten or relegated to the footnotes of 
the history of our times. But I confess that I am more than a litde dis- 
comforted; I feel deeply and personally upset when I think of the three 




US$2 



Let 



The Eurooeans foueht two 



Because 



be 



for mankind 



perished in the so-called World War 
:0 million civilians oerished in the s( 



called World War II 



55 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



'Iti the tally of megadeath in the trenches of war must he added the 
deaths on the altar of doctrines. Hitler and Nazism saw the liquidation 
of 17 million men, women and children. Stalin and the Russian com- 
munists put to death between 20 and 25 million human heings. One to 
two million died from the doctrinal enthusiasms of Mao Tsetung and 
Pol Pot. As many as 80 million lives have been sacrificed in the temple 
of dcxtrinal or religious fervour in our wonderful century. 

Man's inhumanity to man had never before reached such heights. 
So far in this century, which has not yet come to an end, perhaps 1 75 to 
200 million people have been killed in mass carnage of one kind or an- 
other. So much of the past. What of the fliture? 

History tells us that the 19th century was the century of Europe. 
Europe dominated the world. Much of the 20th century was the 
American Century. The United States dominated so much of the 
world. There are now many, especially from that part of the world from 




which I come, who are convinced that the 21st century will be the 
Asian Century. They believe that the 21st century will not only be the 
century of Asia; Asia's turn to be lord and master They believe that the 

21st century should be the century of Asia. An Asian century will not 
only come to pass. It is moral and right that this should be so. 

I am sorry to burst their bubble. I believe that the idea of the ** Asian 
Century" walks down the well-trodden path of darkness. And it is a mi- 
rage mired in an incredible swamp of arrogance. I believe that the 
Asian Century will not come. The era of Asian dominance over this 
planet which we call "earth*' will not dawn. Wliat is more, I believe that 
we in Asia should not aspire to achieve it, or to allow a new hegemon- 
ism, even if it is "ours". 

Tlie age of imperialism is dead. The time for hegemony has passed. 
They must be buried. And their burial should be celebrated. There 
must be no resurrection of imperialism, no touting of hegemonism, no 
glorification of dominance or domination in the 21st century. These 
things are immoral. 

Imperialism is no less evil if it is Asian imperialism. Hegemonism is 
no more tolerable if it is Asian hegemonism. Domination is no less a 
blight if it is Asian domination. 




56 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




What we in Asia must work for in the 2 1st century is not the Asian 
Century but the World Century, a single global commonwealth, which 
excludes no one, which includes all of humanity. 

Tliis must be a new world characterised by libertey egalitij fratemite 
at home and by libertd, egalite, fratemite within the comity of nations. 

The global commonwealth of the 21st century which I speak of 
must be a new world populated by flourishing, responsible, productive 
and sustainable democracies distinguished by remarkable standards of 
human rights and by remarkable standards of human responsibilities. 

It must be a new worid made the more remarkable by the emer- 
gence of billions from the darkest pits of poverty. We now have the 

to totally eradicate absolute poverty. According to UNDP sta^ 
tistics, less than 30 years ago, more than half of all Malaysians lived be- 
low the absolute poverty line. Malaysians can now look forward to en- 
tering the 21st century with zero absolute poverty, practically no one 
below the absolute poverty line. The UNDP says that Malaysia has 
been the best poverty killer on the surface of this planet in postwar hu- 
man history. If we can do it, the whole world can do it. Let me ask the 
simplest of questions: Why not commit ourselves to poverty's end? 
Why not make the 2 1st century the first century of mankind freed from 
the enslavement of poverty! 

I believe that what we must also work for is a single global com- 
monwealth which is more caring not only of each human being and of 
his prosperity but more caring also of the physical environment which 
must not suffocate him or bum him, which must instead enrich his ex- 
istence, nourish his life and give him the sense of wonderment on the 
bounties and the beauties of nature, which will cause him to marvel at 
the handiwork of God. Those who believe" that care for the environ- 
ment is a luxury which we cannot afford are wrong. In reality, not car- 
ing for the environment is a luxury which we cannot afford. If we can- 
not launch the necessary global crusade to save the global environment 
at the dawn of the 21st century, the twilight of the 21st century will be 
dark. It will literally be pitch black. 

Let me also stress that the global commonwealth of the 21st cen- 
tury must be a new world characterised by mutual respect, mutual ap- 
preciation, much greater consideration for the interests, feelings, values 
and ways of others. 



7 







MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



I do not wish here to enter the debate on Asian values, which so 
many Westerners tell us so insistently and so consistendy do not exist. 
So insistent are they that even the non-believers in Asia are beginning 
to believe that there must be something in it. 

I will not comment on the fervent belief of so many south of Can- 
ada and north of Mexico that even though there may be such a won- 
drous thing as American values and American way of life, which every- 
one in their right mind {even in Europe) should aspire to, there is no 
such thing as Asian values and Asian ways of life. 

I will easily concede that there is still a very great deal we must 
leam from the West. I will easily concede that many Asian values of to- 
day are under attack and may no longer be there at some future date as 
we continuously urbanise and industrialise, as the extended family 
comes under pressure, as "pop" culture undermines and subverts. I will 
easily concede that the present-day values in Asia are not unique or the 
pure invention of Asians; it is true that m^ny of them are very African; 
a host are very 'Victorian" values, which used to dominate Western 
cultures and which are to be found to this day in so many American and 
European subcultures which are trying to hang on to what they call 
"family values". I will not argue that because the big majority of man- 
kind are Asians and because so many non- Asians share our values or 
are trying to hold on to these values that it is Asian values which are 
universal. 

I will not defend those in power in Asia who are using the Asian 
values argument to justify terrible things that they are doing to their 
own people. I will concede that many Asian values are horrible and 
have to be killed. Indeed, I have personally spent a large part of my life 
trying to do what I can to kill many of the "Asian" values which do us so 
much harm. 



Western 



Western 



longer acceptable. Western cultural myopia and stupidity are no longer 
acceptable. The attempt to impose on others what is so clearly inferior, 
immoral and unproductive, Asia will not tolerate in the 21st century. 

The global commonwealth of the 21st century which I advocate 
must say that a clash of civilisations is an obscenity which we cannot ac- 



58 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



cept. A barren coexistence of civilisations too is not tolerable. Why 
must differences merely be tolerated? Why can they not be relished? 

Our new global commonwealth of the 21st century must be one 
that not only works on the basis of mutual respect. We must be a world 
civilisation propelled by a sincere celebration of civilisations; and be- 
cause it has taken the best from what each has to offer; a world civilisa- 
tion enriched by the feast of civilisations. 

True peace is the sine qua rum, the most essential prerequisite for 
human progress, the essential cornerstone of the global commonwealth 
of the 21st century which we must build. But allow me to concentrate 
on the second cornerstone: common and cooperative prosperity and 
on what I believe is the most important key to this co -prosperity: the 
mind-shift to "prosper-thy-neighbour". 

In one of the most influential books of all time called The Wealth of 
Nations y written by Adam Smith in the year the United States declared 
its independence, he stressed that one single force (selfish individual 
self-interest) will work incredible magic to produce the common good 

ne stress here the need to complement this in- 
visible hand with "the invisible shoulder", the proposition that ensuring 
the prosperity of others will work incredible magic to produce our own 
prosperity and the common prosperity of the global commonwealth. 

For much too long, whether we will concede it or not, whether we 



Let 



idigm 



doctrine of "beggar thy neighboi 



shown 



between 



doing 



others are not doing as well as we are, the majority prefer the latter 
They prefer not doing so well and others doing less well than them- 
selves over doing very well but seeing others performing even better. 

Just ask how much of our time and effort is spent pulling others 
down rather than rejoicing in their accomplishments and lending them 
a helping hand, putting another shoulder to their wheel. 

And yet, helping others to prosper is the rational thing to do, in 
terms of one*s own interest. If you help your neighbour to prosper; you 
will prosper along with him. You should be laughing all the way to the 
bank if he is laughing all the way to the bank. 



59 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



The prosperity of our neighbours and their neighbours and of the 
global commonwealth is in our immediate and vital interest. They en^ 
sure the markets which we need for our exports. They ensure stability 
and peace. Poor neighbours, on the other hand, are a source of prob- 
lems for everyone — ^for themselves and for us — because their problems 
will spill over. Rather than the rising of the tide of wealth and hope that 
will raise all boats, the rising waters of poverty will be a tidal wave of 
misery and deprivation that will sink us all 

In East Asia, we used to be at each other*s throats. We held ftrmly 
to the hallowed traditions of enmity and hostility passed from one gen- 
eration to the next, sometimes over a thousand years. We did our level 
best to beggar and impoverish our neighbours, to keep them down, per- 
haps very much in the way that you also did in Europe, It took us many 
centuries to discover a new way to bury the "beggar-thy-neighbour" 
mindset and put in its place "prosper-thy-neighbour" mindset. This is 
one reason why there is more than one dragon in East Asia and more 
than one tiger. This is why the entire region is populated by dragons, ti- 
gers and tiger cubs. 

We have tried the "invisible shoulder" — and it works. We have fed 
off and grown fat on the prosperity of our neighours. It has been a veri- 
table feast. 

Imagine the incredible power of the "prosper-thy-neighbour" invis- 
ible shoulder applied globally. Imagine how prosperous Asia will be if 
Europe is prosperous, if the old Europe of the industrial revolution is 
back — ^vibrant and dynamic, growing by leaps and bounds. Imagine 
how prosperous Asia will be if all of the Americas is vibrant and dy- 
namic, growing by leaps and bounds. Imagine how prosperous Asia will 
be if Africa is vibrant and dynamic. I hope I am making my point. 

The other side of the coin is also clear. Imagine the benefits Europe 
can derive from a vibrant, dynamic and prosperous Americas, Africa 
and Asia — ^from a vibrant, dynamic and prosperous global common- 
wealth. 

I have concentrated on the idea of the global commonwealth of 
the 21st century which we all should aspire to build. I said at the very 
beginning that there are no grounds for idealism built on the sands of 
illusion, I most sincerely believe that my idealism is not built on illusion. 
All chat I have advocated can be accomplished. 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



But to accomplish it, we would need a new Asia, finding its proper 
place in the making of global history and playing the sort of role it once 
played in the making of human civilisation. 

Some Western scholars have estimated that in 1820, 58 per cent of 
the world's total output was produced by Asia. (Incidentally, in IBCX), 
China still had the highest per capita income although it was shortly to 
be overtaken by Britain). A hundred years later, by 1920, the whole of 
Asia stretching from the Mediterranean to the Bering Sea produced 
not 58 per cent but only 27 per cent of the world's output* This fell to an 
abysmal 19 per cent in 1940. Since then, Asia's gross continental prod- 
uct has been rising rapidly again. By the year 2000, in nominal US dol- 
lar terms, the NAFTA regional economy, the European Union and 
East Asia will reach full parity, each contributing some 28 per cent to 
the global economy. By 2020, it seems very possible that East Asia alone 
will be as big as the European Union and NAFTA combined. The 
Asian Development Bank, along with many others, expect that by the 
year 2025, Asia will produce not quite 58 per cent but a close 57 per 
cent of total global output. We will thus see the return of history, al- 
though it has taken more than two hundred years for Asia to economi- 
cally come full circle. 

Even when Asia is producing 60 per cent of the wealth of the 
w(^rld, Asians will continue to be poor. But the economic centre of 
gravity will have shifted. With it must move the political centre of grav- 
ity. I hope that the civilisational centre of gravity will also have shifted. 

Asia will need to face the challenge of leadership, a most difficult 
challenge when it is recognised that unlike Europe and even the 
Americas, our diversity is unmatched and our ability to act cohesively 
and in solidarity will be limited. We can contribute best by joining 
hands amongst ourselves and joining hands with Europe, with North 
America, with Africa, with every other part of the world, 

I have come to Europe before to ask for the hand of cooperation 
and to urge that Asia and Europe work together. 1 am here in Europe 
once again to call for cooperation and for working together. 

In the days ahead, we must expect Asia to seek greater Asian self 
determination. Asia cannot be denied the right to organise, the right to 
wc^rk together, the right to seek solidarity and to build unity. It cannot 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



be expected to accept dictation without demur and "advice", the way 



murmur. 



Asia 



the subjects of history, the victim or beneficiary of decisions made else- 



Asia 



in the thick of it. 



of change. Asia 



Without the framework of civility and civilisation, can Asia be 
trusted to behave well and in the most civilised mannei; without arro- 
gance and with fiill wisdom? I believe not. No more than could Europe 
or the United States in days now past. 

This is why it is essential to ensure a global commonwealth that is 
much more democratic, that is much more egalitarian, where leader- 
ship will come from every point of the compass. This is why it is impor- 
tant to ensure a global order better than anything we have seen in the 
past. We are only months away from the 21st century. There is little 
time to lose. 




62 




6 





















IN 1969, if anyone had predicted that there would be good, if not to^ 
tally harmonious relations amongst the different races in Malaysia, he 
would probably be laughed into silence. It was unthinkable. There was 
so much bitterness then. Many non^Malays migrated. The Press even 
said that there would be periodical clashes between the races in the fu- 
ture. The country would be politically unstable. A very senior govern- 
ment minister publicly declared that democracy was dead in Malaysia. 

Yet look at the scene when the nation celebrated the 40th year of 
independence recently. Everyone: Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, 
Kadazans, and so on, celebrated the event together, apparently quite 
harmoniously. Everyone cheered the national flag, decorated their cars 
and houses with it, carried and waved it enthusiastically. 

A multiracial crowd gathered on Merdeka Square, mixing freely 
without any sign of fear, completely confident that no one would do any 
harm to anyone because he is of a different race. They cheered and sang 
patriotic songs and roared their approval of the multiracial runners who 
came from every comer of the country bearing the flag proudly. 

Could anyone have imagined such a scene on May 13, 1969 or the 
immediate years after. That this scene has now become commonplace 
year after year is testimony to the incapacity of mere mortals like us to 
presume and predict. Even guesses are very often for off the mark. 



An inaugural address, "Malaysia in the Next Millennium: Challenge for the 
Next Generation," delivered at the University of Malaya Alumni Meeting in 
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on September 19, 1997 



63 




But I 



true. 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



going to try and predict the fiiture since I was asked to. It is 



a mere guess, of course, but I do expect some parts of it would come 



Since what will happen to Malaysia will be very much influenced 
by what happens to the rest of the world, it is necessary to forecast the 




future of the world first. Tliere is no doubt that much will change in the 
affairs of the world. Already we are talking about the global village, 
about a world that has shrunken so much that the world society will, to 
a certain extent, at least be liked a village society, a society in which 
everyone would know everyone else and so would be constantly tread- 
ing on each other*s toes. 

The global village is the result of the speed of communication, 
physical movements of people and goods and of information of every 
kind. Already today it takes less time for us to travel to the other side of 
the globe than it takes people to move through the clogged city streets. 

Imagine a time when it took three weeks for a mail steamer to sail 
from Port Swettenham to London. It takes merely 13 hours now. Of 
course, if you take the Concorde from London to New York you would 
arrive before the local time you left. 

But it is in the transmission of information that amazing opeeds 
have been achieved. It took three weeks to send news by mail from Ma- 
laysia to London. Today letters and pictures are transmitted instantly. 
On the Internet, one has only to click "send" and the message would 
reach any part of the world. 

Teleconferencing makes it seem that distance does not exist at all. 
The Internet enables everyone not just to receive information in- 
stantly, but all kinds of commerce and trade can be just as' instantane- 
ous. True, the goods will still take time to reach the destination, but that 
time is going to get shorter and shorter as more and more use is made of 
air transport. The greatest growth in the aviation industry is in cargo 
transport. 

Huge delivery companies freed from government monopoly are 
delivering everything door to door. One will not have to go to the shops 
to select the goods we wish to buy, but instead have them delivered to 
one's home, examine, accept or reject them and buy everything 
through electronic banks using electronic money which had been elec- 
tronically transferred to our account every week or month. 



64 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



All these may sound far-fetched, but some are already happening 
now. But ease of movement of people will result in massive migrations. 
People will move to where they expect to live a better life with jobs, bet- 
ter jobs and better social amenities. 

The single ethnic countries will give way to multiracial countries 
everywhere. No nations will be able to stop the inflow of foreign people 
without being accused of injustice and inhuman treatment. The world 
will become truly borderless and the countries will mend into one 
global entity. 

The countries of Europe and North America, the most prosperous 
in the world, will cease to be European in the sense of being white or 
Caucasian, Indians, Africans and Chinese will flow into European 
countries so that before even a century passes, Europe will no longer be 
identified with white people. Black, yellow and brown people will all be 
Europeans. Already Europeans athletes are significantly black. 

Initially these non-European immigrants will adopt the language 
and customs of the indigenous Europeans. But as their numbers in- 
crease they will tend to retain their languages and cultures. 

Prosperity will not be confined to the indigenous Europeans. 
Asians will probably dominate the business activities of Europe, and 
Asian and Africans will make up the workforce, especially when they 
retain their culture and work ethics. But there will be other conse- 
quences. There will be clashes between the racial groups, including re- 
ligious groups. There will not be a clash of civilisation as that was predi- 
cated upon the different civilisations remaining separate. 

Over time the peoples of different civilisations living in European 
countries are going to be closely intermixed. Confrontation between 
these peoples of different civilisations can only happen on a small scale 
and they will be uncoordinated. The causes will be local rather than 
universal. 

The scenes of ethnic repression in North America will be repeated 
in Europe as the large white authorities try to impose their standards 
and their rules on the new Europeans. But the whites will have to give 
in eventually until treatment of all "Europeans" of whatever colour 
would be the same. There is of course the possibility later on in the mil- 
lennium when the non-white Europeans would dominate and would 

■ 

try to impose their will on the rest. 




65 







MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



But clashes and confrontations will not be invariable, for the races 




will also intermarry and integrate. More and more white men and 
women will be marrying or at least cohabiting with more and more 
blacks and Asians. Their offspring will have a variety of shades of black, 
white, brown and yellow. An indeterminate hybrid race will emerge as 
has happened in some parts of the South Seas. By the end of the millen- 
nium or even earlier it would be impossible to find anyone of pure white 
stock in Europe. 

North America would go the way of Brazil where people intermix 
freely. However, Latin America will take a longer time as the American 
Indians have largely been isolated. The countries which will have the 
biggest number of people of pure stock could be the Asians. They would 
be prevented from intermixing because of their numbers and their iso- 
lation even in a borderless world. They will migrate to the less densely 
populated countries where they will determine the future character of 
the people there. But the numbers coming from Europe, Africa or Latin 
America into Asian countries would be small relative to the huge 
population of Asians in Asian countries* 

The Chinese, Koreans and Japanese will remain the purest for a 
long time. They too will eventually be mixed but they will always be less 
mixed that the Europeans in Europe and the Americas. 

From these mixing of peoples and cultures, new cultures will 
evolve which will have many similar features. No culture would be re- 
ally foreign or dominant. The hybrid races cannot be easily identified 
with countries, regions or cultures. They will be the peoples of the 
Planet Earth. 

Wars between nations will not be possible. In fact, in a borderless 

■ 

world there will be no nation and no national loyalties to be involved in 
and to fight for. But there would be a lot of violence due to minor mis- 
understandings over issues, interpretations, esoteric ideologies and new 
group loyalties not based on race or nations. Such violence will be en- 
demic and seemingly impossible to put an end to. 

We are already seeing this phenomenon. The end of World War II 
has brought to an end the war between nations. For a time there was a 
Cold War in which the people of the Westem bloc confronted the East- 
em bloc people. Several times it looked as if the two blocs would wage 




war on each other. But fear of nuclear war and the massive irreparable 



66 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




destuiction that it could cause was able to keep heads cool and war pre- 
vented. 

But proxy wars were fought all over the world as one bloc instigated 
a third world nation to go to war against another Third World nation 
believed to be supporting or was supported by the other blocs. Hun- 
dreds of thousands died as a result of these proxy wars. Much damage 
was done to property and the economies of these countries. Invariably 
both sides lost and found themselves unable to recover as they are 
abandoned by their patrons. 

But proxy wars were not the only source of violence. Terrorist 
gangs threatened the peace and stability of many countries. The Red 
Army, the Baader Meinhof gang, the IRA, and assorted Muslim fanat- 
ics indulged in senseless violence, killing and destroying property and 
generally preventing peace and stability and economic development 
from taking place. 

In Bosnia-Herzegovina a vicious Serbian attempt to wipe out the 
Muslims was tolerated and at times inadvertently or deliberately aided 
by the big powers. About 200,000 Muslims and a much smaller number 
of Croats and Serbs were massacred or killed in one way or another. 

Tlie world closed its eyes as atrocities were committed. Where eve- 
ryone was so quick to blame certain countries for violations of human 
rights, the self-appointed guardians of world morality decided not to see 
or do anything about the massacres blatantly committed by the Serbs. 

In the field of trade, there have always been pressures brought to 
bear on potential competitors to prevent them from competing fairly. 
Thus, non-trade issues such as alleged human-rights violation, envi- 
ronmental issues, workers rights, and so on, have been made used of to 
prevent emerging economies from growing. Sanctions are applied to 
certain countries for alleged breaches, but if the countries do not pose 
an economic challenge nothing is done. 

In Africa, hundreds of thousands are massacred, or driven away 
from their homes and countries without the guardians of international 
morals doing anything to stop the carnage and the misery of the refu- 
gees. During the proxy wars, diabolical weapons were developed and 
distributed freely amongst the combatants. The great weapon trading 
nations wanted to test their weapons in real-life situations. Most of 
these weapons were paid for the proxy countries. Proxy wars were thus 




67 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



profitable to the arms traders. Amongst these weapons were land 



mines. Millions of them were scattered throughout the world, killing 
and maiming innocent people long after the wars were over. 

Attempts to outlaw these mines were opposed and rejected by the 
superpowers who are still bent on inventing, developing, testing and 
selling weapons, including land mines. It would seem that some people 
feel that the world needs a cheap way of killing people. 

The weapons race continue despite the end of the Cold War. New 
and more sophisticated weapons are continuously being invented, 
tested and produced for military forces which vie against each other in 
the sophistication for their murderous capability. If there are no ene- 
mies to fight for the moment, future enemies were identified in order to 
justify vast sums of money being expended on research, development 
and production of arms. 



arms 



These 



tacks from anyone, but they were persuaded that they must keep up 



have 



forces with certain weapons. And when they do this the media from the 
weapons trading nations condemn these countries for carrying on an 



arms 



All these that I have related are happening today. In this area the 
re will not change radically from the present. The next century, the 
: millennium will see all these things continue to happen. They may 



will repeat 



Otherwise 



When World War 



bring conilicts 



The 



Th. 



instrument of their policy 



powers 



good 



between na 



health and agriculture mitigates against 



ness 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



How the United Nations will function in a world without borders is 
anyone's guess. But it is certainly nojt going to be more effective than it 
is now* It will continue to be an instrument of the big powers. 

What happens to the world will affect and influence Malaysia's in- 
ternal and external affairs. Malaysia is today much more integrated 
with the rest of world than ever before. Our economy is inextricably 
linked with the world economy. And because of that our policies and 
our social life too will be influenced by what goes on in the rest of the 
world. 

At one time, the world was to us a few countries with which we had 
trade and political relations. The United Kingdom, two or three major 
European countries, the North American countries and Japan in the 
East were our partners. To veer from too much dependence on them we 
made contacts with the Eastern Europeans, the Central Asian coun- 
tries, African countries and Latin American countries. 

Our trade is no longer confined to selected countries. Indeed, 
trade with the countries of East Asia, including Southeast Asia, is likely 
to be the biggest portion of our total trade in the future. This is not be- 
cause we do not want to trade with Europe and America. The fact that 
European and North American countries have already matured. Their 
growth will be small in terms of percentage, although in absolute terms 
it will still be quite big. 

On the other hand, the countries of East Asia are in the early 
stages of their growth and their potential for expansion is very much 
greater and more rapid. A small increase in per-capita income of China 
would amount to a very big purchasing capacity for that country. 

Malaysia will be truly a world trader, producing manufactured 
goods of every kind for export and buying raw materials and compo- 
nents in exchange. 

Polirically, Malaysia is likely to maintain its independence. It will 
not belong to any group and its policies will vary according to its per- 
ception of what is right and what is wrong. But domestically Malaysians 
will continue to go against conventional wisdom. Since 1970 Malaysia 
set off to do things as it thought best for Itself. 

■ 

Beginning widi die New Economic Policy ( 1 970- 1 990) , which was 
condemned by the rest of the world for being openly discriminatory, 
Malaysia has been bucking the trend every time all the time. But fortu- 



69 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



nately for Malaysia most of these contrary policies and methods have 
been successful. 

Thus, when the world condemned the Japanese for the Japan Inc 
concept, Malaysia actually adopted a Malaysia Inc concept as an ap- 
proach towards facilitating economic development. 

With the Malaysia Inc concept was launched the biggest privatisa- 
tion programme ever tried by any country. When it was launched in 
1983 and 1984, privatisation was still not fully accepted by most coun- 
tries of the world. Several European countries tried it and gave up. But 
Malaysia plunged headlong into privatisation so that many depart- 
ments, companies and functions of the government were transferred to 
the private sector. 

One startling feature of Malaysia's privatisation is that the workers 
actually support it. Privatisation not only speeded up development but 
it actually helped to fiilfil the objectives of the New Economic Policy by 
creating big Bumiputera corporations to match those of the non-Bu- 
miputeras. And these Bumiputera corporations succeeded as few ex- 
pected them to succeed. 

The result of going against conventional wisdom is to make Malay- 
sia stable politically and successful in its industrialisation and economic 
development. Despite repeated attempts to destabilise the country, 
Malaysia is likely to overcome them and to continue to prosper. 




political 



Obviously 



easy 



We 



Loitering, drug abuse, and so forth will under- 
I the determination of voune Malaysians. Work 



cs will gradually deteric 

As in the developed countries the demand will be f< 



k. Unfortunately, 
will also be seen i 



will 



pressures. As affluent Malaysians reject certain kinds of work, more for- 
eigners will immigrate into the country. At first they would come only 
to work. But soon they will settle down and demand rights, including 




lians would want to deny them these rights 



70 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



rest of the world will apply pressure. Eventually there will be accommO' 
dation. 

We have seen recently how rogue speculators had destroyed our 
economy in the process of enriching themselves. This will happen again 
and again. If we look like attaining Vision 2020, our politics and our 
economy will be undermined. Malaysians will be used also for this pur- 




pose 



Western 



of democracy in which the individual is supreme will be imposed on 

Malaysia* Political instability and frequent changes of governments will 
characterise the Malaysian scene. 

Most of the youths will be subverted. Only a few will resist. Re- 
peated attempts will be made to restore the Malaysian spirit, the spirit 
ofMcdayskL Boleh. There will be protracted struggles between the patri- 



Who will win? That will be 



well as the challenge. 




71 




7 



BUILDING THE GLOBAL 

COMMONWEALTH 
OF THE 2 1 ST CENTURY 



WE ARE TODAY not only on the brink of a new century, but we are 
also poised on the edge of a new millennium. The need for a single 
global worfd of peace and prosperity is thus imperative. 

Exactly a thousand years ago, as the so-called 'civilised world* gy- 
rated towards the end of the first millennium, towards the year 
lOOOA.D., Europe apparently was in the grips of despair and despon- 
dency. The learned clerics had divined from their scriptures, it seemed, 
that exactly a thousand years after the birth of Jesus Christ, the whole 
world would come to an end. It would be the coming of the Apocalypse. 

A blanket of pessimism and hopelessness smothered whatever en- 
terprise dared to raise its head. Effort was eroded. Endeavour was 
cribbed. What was the use of enterprise, effort and endeavour, if the 
world was inexorably moving towards "doomsday"? According to one 
European historian: "Buildings of every sort were suffered to fall into ru- 
ins. It was thought useless to repair them, when the end of the world 
was so near." Stories were told of rich men surrendering wagon-loads of 
jewels in the hope that the end of the world "would find them in a state 
of grace". 

As we now move towards the end of the second millennium and 
the beginning of a new century, it would be foolish of me to come before 
you with talk of 'boomsday', of a future fiill of promise and sunshine, 
ripe for the taking. 




A paper delivered at the 5th Gulf Economic Forum Annual Conference in 
Bahrain on April 8, 1997 



71 






MAHATHtR MOHAMAD 



The 



murderous 20th century, when 160 million have so far died from war, 



two 



day — despite 



food production and thus the possibilities 
for a world without poverty, living in peace, stability and justice. 



Cyn 



vision 



find the will if we can 



mon the strength, if we can persist with the tenacity, the 21st century 
could be mankind's greatest century. There truly is a chance for a new 
beginning in the new millennium. 

I have only two points to make before you today. First, you are in 
West Asia. You are not *the Middle East*, to the east of Europe, the mid- 
dle of the East. You can locate yourself in the middle of the world if you 
so choose. West Asia, on the other hand, is part of Asia. By all means 
look north, Look west. Do not neglect the south. But whatever you do, 
do not forget to go east — as you did in history, to the benefit of us in 




lans 



own benefit. You are the first Western peopl 



Westerners 



not just the Europeans. 

We in Malaysia, we in the Asean countries, we in what the Europe- 
ans insist on calling "the Far East" need you and want you to be with us, 
in the making of our ftiture and we believe your future too. And you 
have a vital interest in being with us, in profiting from the most dy- 
namic economic development region in the history of the world. 

Second, although Asia looks set to once again return to its place in 
history; although Asia will probably see the return of history, what we 
must seek to build is not the century of Asia, not the Age of Asia, where 
Asia will be ascendant, will be dominant, will hold sway. Instead, what 
we must, along with the rest of mankind, try to build is the World Cen- 



tury: 



ich affords more promise tc 
all who have earned it. We 



'ealth, which is propelled by the logic of coopera 



of Allah' 



aring of all the children of Adam 



74 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Despite the finest efforts of the Asia-sceptics, largely congregated 
in the so-called *West\ I am convinced that the so-called Tar East' will 
increasingly be the centre of economic gravity of this planet. You must 
resolve to be part of the rise of this New Asia initiated by the East Asian 
countries. 

In the 19th century, when Europe grew by 3 per cent over an ex- 
tended period of time, this was called "the Industrial Revolution". For 
fifty years now, the major economies of East Asia stretching from Japan 
to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, have been 
growing between two to three times faster. They have been galloping at 
a pace and for a duration never before seen in human history. 

It is no surprise that the writers of the West struggling to under- 
stand what is happening have decided to call this, *the East Asian Mir- 
acle'. The results have truly been astounding and miraculous. We are 
not just people, or economies or even countries. They say we are drag- 
ons and tigers. 

Believe it or not, at the time when India and Pakistan achieved in- 
dependence, the Japanese were much poorer than the Indians and the 
Pakistanis. Hongkong and Singapore were hopeless economies. The 
Indonesians were impoverished. My own country, at the time of our in- 
dependence in 1957, had a per-capita income of US$227. Malaysia, 
this Muslim country, managed to catch up with the per-capita income 
of Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, only in 1960. 

Today, everyone knows the per-capita income of Japan. The peo- 
ple of Hongkong and Singapore are substantially richer than the people 
of the United Kingdom, their former masters or soon-to-be former 
masters. 

Malaysia's per-capita income last year was US$4,374. Haiti today is 
still the poorest country in the Americas. Indeed, in terms of purchas- 

i 

ing power parity, of what our money can buy, if my country were lo- 
cated in the "Western Hemisphere", Malaysia would today have the 
third highest standard of living in all of the Americas, coming only after 
the United States and Canada. I am not boasting but there is a need to 
put things in their proper perspective. 

As recendy as fifteen years ago, Malaysia lived from what we could 
take from under the ground and what we could grow on it. The pillars 
of the Malaysian economy were agriculture and mining. We have al- 



75 







MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



ways been a trading nation, seeking prosperity through buying and sell- 
ing to the world. In 1980, only 24 per cent of our exports consisted of 
manufactured goods. Today, 82 per cent of our exports are manufac- 
tured goods. We now have to import rubber and tin for our industries, 

commodities in which we were once the biggest producers and export- 
ers in the world. 



the 



terms of pop 



size. In terms of percentage of industrial output to total GDIJ in terms of 
the percentage of workers employed in industry, and in terms of the 
percentage of manufactured goods in our export basket, we are 
amongst the first five in the world. 

Having in the last fifteen years moved from being an agricultural 
economy to becoming an industrial state, we now have to grapple with 
the transition in the near future to the post-industrial society. 

The results of the so-called East Asian 'miracle' for my country and 
the other dragons and tigers of East Asia have truly been quite remark- 
able. But a miracle, a simple wave of the wand or the incantation of 
magical words it is not and it has never been. We were not lucky enough 
to have been bom with a silver spoon in our mouth. Still less, with a 



magic wand in our hand. 



have 



We 



that: we also all did it the old fashioned way, without mystery of magic, 
but with a great deal of toil, tears and sweat. Malavsians (the maioritv of 



Muslims) 



hardworking Swiss 



.940 



Germans 



704 



hours. 



Koreans 



After more than a generation of sizzling growth rates, there are 
now many Asia-sceptics, especially in the developed world, who have 
been predicting the end of our growth run. In the early 1 990s, of course, 
we saw how Japan stumbled. 



76 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



We then saw a whole range of theories as to why East Asia could 
not keep on mnning. Professor Paul Krugman of the Massachusetts In- 
stitute of Technology argued that our growth was the result of incred- 
ible inputs of capital and labour without any substantial growth in what 
the growth accountants call total factor productivity. According to his 
thesis, we are now bound to slow down because these superhuman in- 
vestments of capital and labour cannot be sustained. We would run out 
of both capital and labour. It never occurred to professor Krugman and 
those who so merrily cheer him on that if indeed we were able in the 
past to achieve all that we achieved with no assistance whatever from 
productivity growth, imagine what we would be able to achieve in the 
friture once we add the hand of productivity to our cause — provided, 6f 
course, that East Asians are not deliberately barred from productivity 
improvements. The fact of course is that Krugman had the right theory 
and the wrong facts — because a long string of experts (who, unlike 
Krugman, worked out their own sums) have now published their own 
calculations, which in fact argue that East Asia's past ability to mobilise 
investments of labour and capital has in fact lead to their productivity 
growth. 

Others have argued that East Asia cannot continue to run because 
of energy constraints, because of environmental limitations, because of 
food pressures, because the markets in the West must dry up, because of 
the end of technological leapfrogging as East Asian technology catches 
up with the technology of the West, because we will fight amongst our- 
selves, because China will be a threat, because there will be war across 
the Straits, because of the rise of income gaps, because of urban-mral 
disparities, because of congested cities, because of contaminated water. 
Because we will not build enough infrastructure, or because we will 
build too much. Population pressure. Financial constriction. Stress. 
Suicide. Even traffic jams. You name it. One or all of these things will 
fall on our heads or run over us and flatten us down to the ground. 




The Asia- sceptics with huge intellects disagree as to exactly why 
we will stumble and fall. But they are united as to the certainty of our 
fall. We in East Asia will stumble and fall. And we will stumble and fall: 
although we have defied all the Jeremiahs who have been predicting 
our doom for the last half-century; although our problems of success of 
today are infinitely preferable to the problems of failure of the past; and 
although the dangers of the fijture pale in comparison with the dangers 



77 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



which we have recently successfully, and often so dramatically, con- 
fronted and overcome. 

I Avill not dwell on what they think will happen to West Asia and 
the Arabs in the future. They are obviously very satisfied that you are 
facing some horrendous problems and they think you will never sur- 
mount them. It is not that we feel absolutely certain of the future pros- 
perity of East Asia. Disasters can happen whatever may be planned by 
Man, whatever they may do. But the predictions of the great thinkers of 

the West sound too much like wishful thinking. There is such a thing as 
self-fulfilling prophesy. Our fear is that if it does not happen, these 

prophets of doom might try to make sure it will happen. 

Arrogance is never justified. It is always dangerous. Humility is al- 
ways necessary. It is always a usefiil companion in our journey through 
life. But having climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest, East Asians 
might be excused for thinking that all the other mountains look like 
hills, and the hills like sand dunes. All can be scaled, if, God willing, we 
hold firmly to the secrets of the past and adjust rapidly to the demands 
ofthefiiture. 

Of course, just like everyone else, we are well capable of shooting 
ourselves in the foot or in much more vital parts of our body. There will 
be twists and there will be turns. There will be many downs. We do not 
lead charmed lives. We have no magic potions. Except for those with 
limited ambitions, the future will always present much difficulty. When 
we stop worrying about the future, that is the time to start worrying. 

But I regret to inform all those Asia cynics and sceptics whose de- 
clared concern for our welfare often seem to be even greater than our 
concern for ourselves that the chances are pretty good and that we will 
continue to persevere* 

Asia is set to rise. Let us not forget that the great cultures and relig- 
ions of the world all originated in Asia. Indeed Asians conquered 
EurofTe before Europe ever knew there was a world beyond Europe for 
them to conquer and colonise. What Asia could do once Asia can do 
again — not to conquer militarily, not to colonise but to achieve eco- 
nomic power which can balance those of Europe and America. Asia 
should not strive to dominate the world. It should strive to balance the 
dominance of the West so that we will create a more equitable world, a 





7% 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



commo 



sessed only by a privileged few. 

There is much profit still in the rich, mature and old world of 



America. But it would be a mistake to look 



Look 



looked East without stopping to look West 
lenselv. The Deoole of West Asia will los 



looking East. Indeed you can gain and gain a lot. 

This yeai; seven of the fastest growing economies in the world will 
be in East Asia. This should be no surprise. This would have had to be 
said for almost every year over the last generation. By the time we enter 
the 2 1st century, Asia will almost certainly be the largest regional econ- 



\e world, bigger than Western 
There will be more Asians with i 



There 



Asians with an American standard of living than Americans with an 
American standard of living. Admittedly, there will continue to be 
large numbers of very poor people. But Asia has more than 3 billion 
people compared to Europe's 350 million and North America's 300 
million. Even if the percentage of rich people is small it is going to be 



America 



The rise of Asia 



Asia lies not in the Age of Asia or in the so-called Asian Century. Asia 
should not seek arrogance, dominance or hegemony. 

Our struggle for the 21st century must be in the building of a single 
world, a single global commonwealth where peace will be common and 
shared, where prosperity is common and shared, where we find comfort 
and solace not in the things that divide and differentiate us but in our 
common and shared humanity. 



There 



bogey of a Confucianist 



ilisations. Why 
of civilisations, 



not only tolerate each other, where we not only tolerate our differ- 
ences — hut where we celebrate our differences and we feast on the best 
that each civilisarion and culture has to offer. 



79 






MAHATHrR MOHAMAD 



Many will say that the single global commonwealth is Utopian. Af- 
ter all we know there is at least one commonwealth where the wealth is 
far from being common. But a strong Asia playing a responsible role can 
bring about a mind-shift and gradually nurture a true global common- 
wealth of more equitably shared wealth. 

In The Wealth ofNatbnSy written in the year the United States de- 
clared its independence, Adam Smith stressed one single force, the in- 
visible hand* — ^which he identified as the productive individual self in- 
terest — ^which works its magic to produce the common good: prosper- 
ity within a country* But there could additionally be the invisible 
shoulder*, the idea that our prosperity can be ensured by applying the 
'invisible shoulder' to create prosperity for others. This is not altruism. 
It is really enlightened self-interest. 

For many centuries we have been seeing nations, powerful nations 
enriching themselves by impoverishing others. They talk of zero-sum 
games in which one nation's gain can only be achieved at the expense 
and loss of other nations, Beggar-thy-neighbour was and is their phi- 
losophy. In the days of colonialism they extracted the resources of the 

colonised to take back to the metropolitan countries. After colonialism 
became no longer respectable they changed the terms of trade so that 
the former colonies, the newly independent nations, had to sell more 
and more of their primary produce in order to buy less and less of the 
manufactured goods produced by the developed nation. 

Now the poor countries are even being told not to exploit their re- 
sources because they are jeopardising the climate of the world and the 
quality of the environment for the rich. They may not pay low wages as 
this will result in the workers of developed countries losing their jobs. 
The developing countries must never use their competitive advan- 
tages. 

But in the East it has been shown that when rich countries invest 
in poor countries, creating jobs and wealth through e;qports, the invest- 
ing countries not only profit from their enterprises but they create mar- 
kets in the formerly poor nations for their goods and services. As a re- 
sult the rich investing countries and the recipients of the investments 
both prosper. In other words, by applying the invisible shoulder to 
achieve prosperity for others, you can actually prosper yourself. It is a 
case of prosper-thy-neighbour and not beggar-thy-neighbour. Instead 
of zero surns^ we obtain positive numbers iiistead. 



80 



^ 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Individually we should all be productive using the force of Adam 
Smith's 'invisible hand*. But even as the invisible hand works to pro- 
duce the common good, prosperity within a country, why should we 
not apply the 'invisible shoulder* of the wealthy nations to produce the 
common prosperity of all iiations. That way we can achieve the com- 
monwealth of the world. Idealistic perhaps. What has happened to the 
League of Nations and the United Nations is not encouraging. But 
must we abandon hope and ideals altogether because they failed. The 
prosper thy neighbour philosophy does not involve any sacrifice by any- 
one. Everyone stands to gain from a world of shared prosperity. It is a 
win-win formula or philosophy. 

East Asia is almost uniformly prosperous because, by accident or by 
design, prosper thy neighbour has become its philosophy. But why 
should East Asia not share its enriching philosophy and practice with 
the rest of the world, in particular with West Asia. Surely by sharing 
East Asia will be richer even as West Asia become richer than it already 
is. Then and then only will the Asian Renaissance be complete. 

Europe may have approached the end of the first millennium in 
fear and trepidation, believing that doomsday was approaching. No one 
really knows when doomsday will come. Only Allah knows. It may 
come when we least expect it. But for Muslims in particular we are en- 
joined to seek a balance between the worldly and the hereafter. For as 
long as we prepare ourselves for the hereafter there is really no reason 
why we should not seek a better life in this world. Helping in the crea- 
tion of wealth for all will give us a better life for ourselves and for others. 
It is charity without cost. We will create a better world in the 21st cen- 
tury, God willing. And it will all be in keeping with the injunction of our 
religion. 





THE 



OF JAPAN I 



ASIA 



look 



look at Asia 



Lgly borderless 



terms 



Asia. Perhaps more so for Japan for reasons I do not have to elabo- 
: here. We all have to try to understand not only the dimensions and 



also 



igniftcant; 



tions. 



Japan is generally regarded as a success story. Very few people will 
disagree with that although some may have their own views on what 
actually constitute success. Fundamentally, it was the emergence of Ja- 
pan as an economic superpower in the post-World War II era that has 
inspired admiration and initiated the economic revolution amongst 
many East Asian nations, a revolution that has changed almost com- 
pletely the character of this region, and projected it into prominence in 
the world's economic equation. 

Emerging from the Pacific War with a devastated country and 
economy, Japan has become today one of the few countries in the world 
that is truly powerful economically, becoming a creditor nation very 
early during its emergence as an economic powerhouse. I am told un- 
employment has been for a long time almost a non-issue in this country. 

A paper delivered at the Conference on **The Future of Asia and the Role of 
Japan: Challenges of the 21st Century to Youth" at Waseda University in To- 
kyo, Japan, on March 27, 1997 



MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Other developed nations may be prosperous but have almost never 
been able to achieve full employment. Despite some recent recurring 
economic ills, its per-capita income is still one of the highest in the 
world. And perhaps even more important it is one of the most peaceful 
and pleasant countries to live in. 

Some people attribute Japan's miraculous economic feat to its 
unique culture. Their basic argument is that the Japanese have been 
successful simply because they are Japanese and that on account of the 
uniqueness of the Japanese culture, there are many things about the 
Japanese which simply carmot be leamt or emulated. 

I beg to disagree. Japanese culture may have played a role. But re- 
ally there is nothing that cannot be leamt, includmg elements of a 
country's culture, Malaysia has always been very much impressed with 
the Japanese achievements and over a decade ago we set out to seri- 
ously learn certain aspects of your culture. Hence the Look East Fblicy. 



policy has proven beneficial 



has benefited Japan 



tpoly of certain 



imperialism. We, the colonised 



by Europe 



believed at one time that there was no way we could acquire these 
skills. But Japan and the Japanese have shown that the claim was false. 




knowledge 



any knowledge or skil 
[y. And our Look East 



ing us any less Malaysian. 



without of course 



Asia, freed from the aforementioned myths will 



East Asia 



Asia will 



will not be 



Asia' 



ploding, 



pean Union or NAFTA in the 21st century. But what all these portend 
for the fiiture of Asia and indeed of the world will depend on our under- 
standing and perceptions of the various altemarives presented to us 
and the role we choose to nlav. 



84 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Due to sheer size alone China must become a major economic 



power in the region. We are being 



Asian 



the Southeast Asian countries can easily balance that of China. Cer- 
tainly in economic terms China will not be as big as the rest of East Asia. 
An antagonistic stand towards China by the rest will not be necessary. 
It will actually be counterproductive. Instead cooperation between all 
the countries of East Asia including China, not in a military or even 
economic terms, but in promoting justice and equitability world wide, 
in arguing on behalf of weak riations, would create the kind of under- 
standing which will diminish the possibility of conflicts and confronta- 
tions in East Asia. And by extension, it would contribute towards 
building a peaceful and more equitable world. 

Some will probably think that a strong cooperative Asia will want 
to dominate the world. Already some are talking of the 21st century as 



Asian century. But a strong Asia can 
se the Europeans on both sides of the 



The 



unfortunate 



inging 



by Asia 



nies, the Europeans now want to continue their dominance through 



terms 



environmental 



They are still at it because no one seems 



Asians 



in world affairs. 



Lgfiil role 



But, if Asians (particularly of East Asia) have a better sense of re- 
sponsibility, they will undertake the task. Asia cannot dominate the 
world. There cannot be an Asian century. But a more cohesive Asia 
can provide the balance which will contribute towards the creation of a 
more equitable world. Asians as much as Europeans have been guilty of 
cruel wars in the past. Millions have died because of the ambitious wars 
of conquest by Asians. The Seljuk and the Ottoman Turks and the 
Mongols swept over Central Asia and then Europe, killing millions and 
devastating towns and cities. Arab armies reached beyond the Py- 




85 




too 



by the European concept of imperialism 



There is no doubt that thev would have 



that 



between Asian 



peopl 



They remain apart even when their subjects embraced their religion 



Asian 



Thus 



The 



There was 



permanent line between the conquerors and the conquered. They 



values 



identify 



local 



own kind. There 



Arabs or Mongols. 



How relevant is this to the problem of balancing the influence of 



West 



Lgnificant 



the cultures, religions and politics of the world. If they could do that be- 
fore, they should be able to do the same again, not through wars of 
course but through balancing the pressures of the Europeans. But can 
they succeed in doing this? Again, I would like to say that they can if 
they have the courage of their conviction and the will to try. The prob- 
lem is that at the moment the Asians are passive, fragmented and tim- 
idly defensive. If they continue to be as they are now, then the role of 
Asians in the next century will not be any different from their present 
role. And in that case they deserve to be dominated by the Europeans 
in an inequitable and an unjust world. 

I would like to stress again that playing a balancing role is not the 
same as trying to dominate. I am not suggesting that Asians should 
forcibly confront the Europeans in an attempt to make them less prone 



arm-twisting methods 



ipoly of wisdom, not the Asians 



the Europeans. But Europeans have been wrong many more times in 



They 



Let 



86 





POLITJCS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




When the 20th century dawned, the Europeans were at the height 
of their world dominance. Almost every European power including 
European Russia boasted of huge globe -girdling empires. They saw 
nothing wrong in their colonising and subjecting non-Europeans to 

their rule. Indeed, they invented the myth of the White Man's Burden 
to justify their oppressive imperialism. 

But in the end they had to admit that they were wrong, that the na- 



tives had their own civilisations and the right to be free of European 
norms and overlordship. 

Having tacitly admitted that they had been wrong about the 
White Man s Burden, they then created the Cold War as a sequel to the 
World War II they won. World War II had been touted by them as the 
war to end all wars. But apparently it only resulted in a prolonged Cold 
War because of ideological differences. Tl^e ideologies concerned were 
all of European origins and both sides, the Western Europeans and the 
Eastern Europeans preached these ideologies as the only correct ideolo- 
gies which the whole world must embrace. 

In the end, after much tension, costly preparations for war, proxy 
wars and assorted confrontations, it was admitted that the socialist ide- 
ology of Western Europe and the communist ideology of Eastern 
Europe were wrong. It was, however, claimed that the liberal democ- 
racy and free-market capitalism of the West had triumphed and been 
adjudged the right set of systems. Now the whole world must accept 
these systems. 

Tlieir value systems too were proven wrong repeatedly. They de- 
nied voting rights for women at first but later accorded them the right 
as well as other rights undreamt of. They decided that workers and their 
unions could do no wrong but today they have half-reversed their liber- 
alism, limiting some of the rights of their own workers. Again they have 
tacitly admitted that they have been wrong. 

But despite being so often wrong in so many of their ideas, they are 
absolutely convinced that their brand of liberal democracy is absolutely 
right. No other system would therefore be tolerated by them. Every 
country must now practise liberal democracy. If they don't, then eco- 
nomic sanctions and even military threat will be directed at them. That 
such methods are rather undemocratic does not worry the Europeans 
one bit. When promoting their cause everything is justified- 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



better 




democracy 



people. Indeed the authoritarian rulers of communist countries were 
fond of describing their countries as democratic republics. The Eastern 
Europeans are as inconsistent as the Western Europeans. They have 
now largely discarded their democratic republics, considering them not 
democratic at all. In other words, they have admitted they were wrong 
about their brand of democracy. Is it not possible that since the Europe^ 
ans both East and West have been wrong so many times, that their lib- 
eral democracy too would be proven wrong eventually? Is it not possible 



Asia interpretation of democracy may be 



7 



In the field of international trade we are told that the only right sys- 



between all countries of whatever 



The 



iWTOtl 
powerful 



This is just and this is right. Already 



They 



will open their markets to the tiny companies from the poor countries 
in order to demonstrate how fair they are. 

Everyone must accept liberal democracy and the absolutely free 
market because the Europeans say they are just and fair. But if they have 
been so often wrong before could they not be wrong also regarding their 
interpretation of free trade? Could it not be possible that others, include 



small Asian trading countries, be 



have 



uncoordinated, the emerging economies of Asia 



nomic affairs of their own countries and certainly not in the worid. We 
are going along with the dominant European views regardless of their 
mistakes in the past and the possibility of their making a mistake again 
now. If in the end all their systems, political and economic, are proven 
wrong, then obviously we will all have to pay a price. It could be a very 
heavy price. Already the Westem thinkers are predicting clashes of civ- 
ilisations. The pressures on China and Southeast Asian countries are 
causing bitterness as they obstruct the growth and development of 
these countries. The carping criticisms of human-rights records and en- 
vironmental pollution or destruction and the linking of these with 
trade will be much resented. Tensions will rise, threats will be hurled 






POLITICS. DEMOCRACY ANDTHE NEW ASIA 



and unpleasant incidents will colour the relations between East and 
West, one day someone might do something stupid and economic pur^ 
suits will be replaced with political and even military confrontations. 

; All these may seem rather pessimistic. But all these things can hap' 
pen. TTiey can happen because the only people "who can do something 
to stop it will not act. And the only people are the Asians, the countries 
of Asia, specifically East Asia. 

So far Asia has refused to do anything in concert. They worry the 
Europeans on both sides of the Atlantic may not like it. At all cost they 
must not annoy the Europeans. Even if the Europeans are obviously 
wrong they should not be angered by telling them they could be wrong. 

I submit that this is the wrong way to ensure a peaceful and glorious 
21st century. Asia must speak up if the countries of Asia want to enjoy 
peace and prosperity in the next century. Asia must be willing to con- 
front the Europeans across the table now if it wants to avoid confront- 
ing them in other arenas later. 

During the Cold War there were two blocs. Each bloc had to be 
careful and considerate of the needs of smaller countries to gain their 
support, even if such support was only moral in nature. The end of the 
Cold War has resulted in an unbalanced domination of the victor over 
the whole world. The sole dominant power has already demonstrated a 
tendency to be very heavy handed when dealing with other countries, 
particularly those not of the European bloc. 

The only way to lighten this heavy-handedness is to create a coun- 
terbalance. Asia can provide that counterbalance. We are not talking 
about a balance of terror, a balance in temis of military might. That is 
wasteful and unproductive. The Asians can prevail simply by arguing 
their case together to counter the tendency of the Europeans to impose 
their systems and their will on the world* 

As has been pointed out the Europeans have been wrong again 
and again. We must convince the Europeans that they could be wrong 
again now — about their ideology, their political systemis and their eco- 
nomic creed. We have to do it now before their overbearing ways lead 
to bitterness and tensions or worse. 

The future of Asia should be determined by Asians. If Asia decides 





to accept continued European and American domination of the world, 
then a rapidly inequitable and oppressive atmosphere will build up 



89 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




which must in the end be damaging to Asia, if not to the whole world. If 
Asia instead decides to play a meaningful role in world affairs, to 
counter and correct wrong attitudes and wrong economic and financial 
policies of the Europeans, then there will be hope for a more-just and 
equitable world, a world in which the weak and the strong can coexist 
in peace and prosperity. The balances needed are not a question of bal- 
ance of arms. What is needed now is for Asians to push their own argu- 
ments in the light of their own experiences, past and present. 

The role of Japan is obvious. It is by far the most advanced nation 
of Asia, It is well-placed to lead as the first amongst equals. It should 
play its rightful role in world affairs. It should set a good example for 
Asia by taking up the issues of concern to Asian countries. It should 
cease to consider itself a western developed nation in the East. Japan 
has the credibility to lead, not towards Asian domination in an Asian 
Century, but towards a more equitable world community in the World 
Century which is dawning upon us. 

The future belongs to the young, and another important task for us 
all today is to make sure we are not robbing them of their opportunities. 
For the youths themselves, the challenge in the Zlst century is to try to 
throw off the baggage of history. The youths of the Zlst century must 
think of themselves as true citizens of the world. They must forget col- 
our and creed and notions of superiority or inferiority. They must think 
of equality not in terms of material wealth alone but as being members 
of the same human race. The borderless world in which they will live 
must not only be in terms of information and capital flows. It must be 
borderless in the true sense of removing the distinctions due to unequal 
wealth and power, colour, creed and intolerance between religions. 
Above all, the youths of the Zlst century must not allow for a clash of 
civilisations to occur. 

The youths of the 21st century must fully understand that the 
world is round. No country is truly East or West, except relative to each 
other. Japan is a western country insofar as the United States is con- 
cerned, and by the same token the United States is an eastern country. 
We all have as much right to call ourselves eastern or western people 



with no implied connotation about being inferior or superior. 

The youths of the 21st century must reorientate themselves to a 
world which has not only shrunken but will no longer be divided be- 
tween East and West. They will have to learn to regard the whole Earth 



90 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



as their planet and country, the object of their ultimate loyalty. Na- 
tional traditions and cultures they must retain, but all traditions and 
cultures of all countries are of equal importance and worthy of being re- 
spected by all. There will be only one world civilisation, although indi- 
vidual traditions, standards and perceptions must be allowed to differ. 
All should be accepted as universal, unless we all agree they are totally 
unacceptable. 

The Information Age has dawned upon us and with it comes a bor- 
derless world in which no nation can be an island. We all belong to the 
same world, fed by the same information and accepting ever more uni- 
form values and culture. Eventually, there will evolve a world civilisa- 
tion to which everyone will belong. The challenge for the youths of the 
21st century is to adjust to this World Century while retaining some of 
the diversity of race and creed which will make the world continue to 
be interesting. For Asian youths, their understanding of the shape and 
dynamics of the 21st century will determine the role that they will play 
and the Asia that will eventually emerge. 





91 







9 
WILL THE 



CENTURY STILL B 



THE ASIAN CENTURY? 





ONE THOUSAND YEARS ago, as Europe moved towards the sec^ 
ond millennium, the 'civilised world' of that time was in the grips of de^ 
spair. The learned Christian clerics — ^and therefore the people of 
Europe — ^were convinced that exactly a thousand years after the birth 
of Jesus Christ the world would come to an end. Doomsday was at 
hand; commerce and politics thus wound down. So did human enter- 
prise and endeavour. Many people lived in fear of the immediate ftiture. 
There was in the 'civilised world* of that time unmitigated despondency 
for if mankind and the world were coming to an end, what was the 
point of planning or working for the future? As the second millennium 
approached, the world that was Europe waited and prepared for the 



Today, as we approach the third millennium, many people agair 
-he coming of apocalypse. Many people, not least in Asia, fear foi 
r immediate future. We must now focus not only on the end, bu 
er on forging a new beginning. Let me thus plead for a new begin 



determined effort bv Asia 



Americas and Africa — ^by all of mankind 



first time 



world history a single global commonwealth of common wealth and co- 
prosperity, where the full dignity of all the children of the earth will be 
catered to and nourished. 

If we look at more recent history, the 19th century clearly was the 
European Century. Industrial capitalism spread across the European 



A paper delivered at the Global Panel 1 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



continent, with its empires and industrial economy dominating the 
world. Much of the 20th century has been the American Century, par- 
ticularly the latter part of the century. America, with its wealth and 
military power, has been setting the international agenda, and both its 
business and popular culture have penetrated all nations. All this is 
common knowledge, and for Europeans and Americans this preemi- 
nence appeared to be the ordained order of things — almost a divine 
privilege that their culture and economy should rule the world. Though 




will 



Asian Centurv: thev believe that Asia will 



ture and dominate the world. 

The very idea of Asian dominance over the world was, I believe, a 
mirage wrapped in incredible hubris. The Asian Century will not come, 
and the era of Asian dominance over this planet will not arrive, and we 
in Asia should never aspire to a new hegemony, thus merely replacing 
one evil with another. 

The age of imperialism and hegemony must end; they much be 
buried and their burial celebrated. The 21st century must hold no res- 
urrection of imperialism, no touting of hegemonism, and especially no 
glorification of dominance or domination — ^beit political, economic or 
cultural. The curse of imperialism would'be any less because it is Asian 
imperialism. 

What we must work for in the 21st century is not the Asian Cen- 
tury but the World Century. We must build a new world characterised 
by true liberti, egaliti, fraiewke^ a new world populated by flourishing, re- 
sponsible and productive democracies. A new world characterised by 
much greater mutual respect, much greater mutual appreciation, much 
greater consideration of the interests and feelings of others, and much 
greater concern for the global commons whicK is the responsibility of all 
nations, east, west, north and south. 

The renowned American political scientist, Samuel R Hunt- 
ington, some years ago in his controversial essay, *The Clash of Civilisa- 
tions?" (1993) [and later in his book, The Clash of CwSisatians and the 
Remcddng of World Ordsr ( 1 996) ] , postulated that the world appeared to 
heading towards conflicts not between countries but between whole 
civilisations. It was a perfect theoretical construction; historically, we 
first had clashes between tribes, then between fiefe and small kingdoms, 
and then, with the emergence of the nation-state, came wars between 



94 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



nations. The next, almost natural step, on this ladder is that the future 
must be characterised by the clash of civilisations. The world, however, 
never worked according to academic theories, but the more you pro- 




kelihood for clashes 



cur. 




It goes without saying that we cannot afford a world buffeted by a 
clash of civilisations. Instead, we should think about how civilisations 
can learn and adopt the good values of each other, and identify areas of 
similarity rather than potential conflict. If you focus merely on differ- 
ences and conflict, you will have increased friction; if you choose to fo- 
cus on cooperation and similarities, you may be able to work closer to- 
gether. 

Why must we now, once again, promote the idea of clashes be- 
tween civilisations and religions? Instead, we should ail work towards 
enabling the civilisations to coexist. Coexistence must be our mission. 
More than that, I believe that a barren coexistence of civilisations too is 
intolerable. Why must we merely tolerate differences? Why not relish 
them? How rich can your life be if all you do is live on Dutch cheese and 
deny yourself the delights of the cuisine of France, Italy, China, India, 
Thailand, the Malay world, and so on? Why not enjoy and celebrate 
and create a feast of civilisations? 

I used to ask the Europeans why it is that so many from Europe un- 
derstand and appreciate the fact that Asian music should develop 
along its own path and not be mere imitations of the Beades, Charles 
Aznavour and Mozart, and yet so many cannot tolerate any Asian fomi 
of governance that is not a true copy of the European form? Wliy is it 
that so many from Europe understand and appreciate Asian art and 
celebrate its enormous diversity and welcome the fact that it is not a 
copy of European art, and yet so many insist that Asian ways of business 
and economics, politics and administration cannot be legitimate unless 
they are replicas of European ways? Why is Asian music, art and litera- 
ture celebrated as uniquely different from European music, art and lit- 
erature, and yet Asian values and ways of democracy and economics 
are so vilified and detested by so many when they are found to be differ- 
ent? 

There must be greater humility and lesser arrogance on both sides. 
Surely you do not want to live in standard houses, wear standard cloth- 
ing and listen to standard music composed by culturally correct com- 



95 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



posers. We cailnot accept a theory of coexistence which says that all 
peoples have to be the same, submitting to the niles of globalised capital 
flows. That is certainly not my idea of the future of global civilisation. 

A VCforld Century was never possible in the distant past, either be- 
cause of cultural or ideological arrogance or because of the tyranny of 
geographical distances and the limited state of technology. It was not 
possible in the more recent past because the world was divided into ri- 
val camps and because material concerns had absolute supremacy over 
all other values. 

A World Century is now possible for the first time. No single na- 
tion, no single people, no single region should inherit the future; all na- 
tions, all peoples, all regions should have the same opportuniries. I hope 
that all people of talent and diligence, who earn the right, will inherit 
the future. I believe the future should belong to all who have the will 
and who are willing to put in the effort. Globalisation, yes; hegemonic 
uniformity and conformity, nc 



r 

aflairs and all 



Not too long ago, we 



Korea 



Singapore, Thailand 




etnam, Taiwan — ^were all regarded, without exception, as dead ducks. 
We were all at one time or another given up as lost causes, as hopeless 
societies so obviously destined for the dustbins of history. 

Over the last generation especially, we have shown the world, in- 
cluding those in many continents who now despair and have lost hope, 
what so-called hopeless countries and so-called hopeless peoples can 
do. Despite the predictions of many who cannot see how we can con- 
tinue to run at such sizzling speeds over such a long time without losing 
steam or collapsing from overheating or sheer exhaustion, I believe we 
will persevere. Despite the predictions of those who believe that we will 
soon hit the wall of resource constraints, I believe we will proceed 
apace. Despite the predictions of those who believe that we cannot 
make the necessary productivity and value-added quantum leaps, I say 
watch and see how. God willing, we do what needs to be done. Despite 
the predictions of those who think that we cannot surely go on for 
much longer without coming to blows with each other, I believe we will 
not fight. We will continue to patiently build the East Asian Peace, the 
East Asian Community, the web of East Asian cooperation which we 



96 



must have to ensure that we can continue with our rapid march to- 
wards a better life for our peoples. 

We are not eoine to lose steam. We are not eoine to coUanse from 



We 



now going to go down the slippery slope towards mediocrity. Those 
who expect us to do so will, I think, be somewhat disappointed. 

One has to be blind not to see that even as a different and new 




POUTICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



We 



pragmatism. We 




aking with the end of the Cold War, 



Asia 



Asian dominoes which the learned Western journalists told us would 
fall one by one as soon as Vietnam Ms, Well, they have not fallen. In- 
stead, they have helped a victorious Vietnam to rebuild and made such 



had 



invest in. 



As recently as 1980, the total regional GDP of the East Asian 



two 



Western Eurooe or of North America. Bv 1990, East Asia 



of Western 



The 

2000 



size 



Already the economies of APEC produce more than 60 per cent of 
all the goods and services produced on this planet. There are many who 



w believe that just East Asia i 
two Western Eurone or two 



East Asia will he the size of Western 



Europe and North America put together. 




Asian future. Ai^d 



optimism does not stretch to such lengths. But I do know that we are 



Asia 



The 



(RM 14.2 million) will be added to the gross world product 

servirps. Half of that will be nroduced bv East Asia. Tlie E' 



2000 



Asia 



97 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




the year 2000, 400 million Asians, of whom 300 million would be East 
Asians, "will have average disposable incomes as high, if not higher, 



than their European or US contemporaries". I wonder whether we can 
fiilly appreciate the fiill import of this forecast. 

It means that within three years or just 37 months from today, 
there will be many more East Asians with a European pattern of de- 
mand and standard of living than there will be Europeans with a Euro- 
pean pattern of demand and standard of living. Can it be any surprise 
that for some time now Europe has been exporting dramatically more 
to East Asia than to the United States and the United States has been 
exporting dramatically more to East Asia than to Europe? Is it any sur- 
prise if even Japan exports more to the rest of East Asia than it does to 
either Europe or the United States? As a matter of interest, the United 
States exports more to a small country of 20 million consumers like Ma- 
laysia than to the whole of Eastern Europe and Russia. To the United 
States, in terms of exports, we are roughly thrice the size of Russia, 

I need not cite how many telephones East Asians will be buying 
and connecting over the next ten years, how many cars we will drive 
onto how many miles of new roads, how many trains we will put on the 
rails, how many aircrafts we will hurl into the skies from how many doz- 
ens of airports, how many Pierre Cardin suits we will be putting on our 
backs, how many pills we will swallow. I do not know. Though I know 
enough to know that the figures are huge. And there has never before 
been anything quite like it. And let not anyone go away with the feeling 
that the revolutionary changes which have swept East Asia are only 
economic, although economics has been the major factor which has 
transformed every dimension and touched every East Asian. 

We have also changed politically. Vast numbers of the middle class 
are being manufectured by the day. The winds of democracy, of democ- 
racy with an Asian rather than a Dutch or French or Belgian or Ameri- 
can flavour, have been blowing in every country. I believe they cannot 
be stopped if we continue our process of economic advancement. Eve- 
rywhere, there is much greater pluralism, but always the stress has been 
and will continue to be the good of the many rather than the selfishness 
of the few or the individual. Democracy cannot mean the will of the 
people if their will and their interest can be fiiistrated by disenchanted 
groups and individuals. The individual imposing his will on the many 




98 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



represents autocracy, whether he is in power or not. In Asia, democracy 
will always prevail over all forms or permutations of autocracy. 

Never before in human history have so many human beings moved 
so far or so fast in improving their human condition. The industrial 
revolution in Europe pales in comparison. For the first time in the his- 
tory of the world, there is a sense of regional consciousness rising in East 
Asia and a sense of Asian pride rising throughout almost the entire 
Asian continent. There has been a fundamental change for the better 
in the capability of people and *real' empowerment has occurred. There 
has also been a fundamental change in heart and mind. 

I am reminded that there was a time in Europe, not so long ago, 
when many Europeans believed that what was good was in Europe and 
what was in Europe was good. Later, the Americans believed — and the 
Europeans concurred — that what was good was in America and what 
was in America was good. Americans would still like to believe this but 
for how long more? The historians seem to say that Europe's funda- 
mental cultural shift was more or less complete by the early 1970s. 
Similarly, there was a time when many Asians believed that what was 



good 



in "the West" and what was in "the West" was good. But to^ 



day, is it surprising that Asia too has witnessed a fiindamental cultural 
shift? 

We know that there are still many fine things in "the West" and 
that the process of learning from "the West" )Vould not come to an end 
soon. Only the blind and the foolish — ^wherever they may be — cannot 
know this. But we have also discovered many invaluable things in our 
own values and traditions and in the values and traditions of Asia. 



Asia 



Western 



large extent been restored to whole peoples who had lost their self-re- 



of East Asia 



empowerment. 



Asia, an Asia which cannot continue t 
last. At the same time, this new Asia 



treated as it had been in the past. 

I have rejected the vision of the "Asian Century*' because it is not 
about to happen. Human kind must know that there is a better goal. In 
the economic realm, I see what may be an idealistic yet still achievable 



99 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



scenario for the coming generation: first, Europe's rediscovery of its 
enormous dynamism, arising from its enormous maturity and genius; 
second, America's relaunch of a massive economic spurt coming from 
its incredible enterprise and competitiveness; third, the rise of Asia 
springing from its unbounded human resources, the capacity for hard 
work and superhuman effort when motivated, and their push for the 
comprehensive productivity of their polyglot societies; fourth, the con- 
certed and cooperative development of the vast resources, human and 
geological, of Africa by Africans and the whole world; no aid, no debts, 
but shared investments in which the Africans* willingness to share their 
resources and their unbounded energy must be fully compensated by 
the rest; fifth, and finally dropping the silly confrontations inherited 
from the Crusades; we must stop associating Islam with terrorism for we 
all know Christians, Jews and Buddhists have blown up more buildings 
and killed more people than Muslims. 

Indeed, the methods and the means of terror have all been in- 
vented in Europe and America. The crusade, all crusades, for the de- 
struction of all enemies, must stop. The crusade of the future must be 
the crusade to mend and to rebuild. This is the vision and the mission 
which the young in particular should work wholeheartedly to realise. 
We must work for a new rising economic tide in every comer and quad- 
rant of this planet that will lift every boat, no matter the geographical 
location or continental address. 

How is this new rising tide of dynamism and prosperity to be ac- 
complished now when all indicators point towards stagnation and ex- 
tended misery? Are oceans of goodwill, foreign aid and self-sacrifice 
needed? If such things are needed, we should forget it; humans have 
not evolved into such noble creatures. 

All that is necessary is reasonably enlightened self-interest, arising 
out of even the most hazy perception of the obvious; reasonably en- 



that 



nose 




est springing from a litde bit of courage and leadership in doing what we 
know we must. 

Just as Adam Smith stressed one single factor, the "invisible hand" 
in the process by which nations create wealth, let me stress one single 
mind-shift in prescribing the means by which the global common- 
wealth can be actively pursued. Let me call this the "invisible shoulder". 



100 








POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



For far too long, whether we admit it or not, mankind and nations have 
been in the grips of a "beggar-thy-neighbour" mindset. Do we relish the 
sight of others doing well, especially if they are doing better than we are? 
Do we spend any effort at all — other than by means of psychologically 
satisfying charity — in helping others to truly progress, compared to the 
lengths we go to beat others, to drag them down? 

Imagine a world in which, instead of trying to beggar our neigh' 
hours, we are actively engaged in ensuring our prosperity by fostering 
their prosperity. We put our "invisible shoulders" to their wheel. Imag' 
ine the incredible results if the whole world is in the grips not of "beggar- 
thy 'neighbour" impulses but is given the push of "prosper-thy-neigh- 
hour" attitudes and policies. 

Is this unrealistic idealism? If this was unrealistic idealism for a past 
generation, let us hope it will not be so for the coming generation. 
Come to our region to see how unrealistic we are. We persevere be- 
cause we have seen the wonders worked by this "invisible shoulder" in 
East Asia. The boats have been pushed to sea and all have risen with 
the rising East Asian economic tide. And we, even the tiger cubs, are 

going abroad, to places which western socialism had destroyed, to put 
our shoulders to the wheels and to achieve the same unrealistic mir- 
acles. 

Hundreds of year ago, Europeans ventured forth out of the secure 
confines of its small continent and conquered the East. They brought 



time 



confines of 




nent to once again conquer the East: not our lands, not our peoples, not 
our pride and our faith, but our markets; not to dominate our societies 
and economies but to be an indispensable co-venturer in the renais- 
sance of the people who had once been the creators of great civilisa- 
tions and religions. 

The East Asian miracle was brought about in the old-fashioned 
way, through massive investments in hard work and the sweat of our 
brow. Most of the countries of East Asia give pride of place for foreign 
investments because we could not have come so far without them. We 
will continue to provide pride of place for foreign investments because 
we cannot get to where we want to go in the decades ahead without 
them. 



101 






lO 
BUILDING A 



INGLE GLOBAL 



COMMONWEALTH 




THIS 



ilities from the United States and East Asia, I wonder 
permitted to say a few things to our American and As 



and to conclude with just one thought which it might be useful for us all 
to ponder together, 

To our colleagues from across the Pacific, let me press three points. 
First, may we of Asia ask for a little understanding, a sense of fairness, a 
little time and a little space. By all means, do not let anyone of us, 
Asians, hide behind excuses. Let all oppressors and despots fear the 
conscience of mankind to which Asia as well as America must fiilly 
contribute. But let us be fair. We will lose nothing by so doing- 
Second — and here I direct my remarks not to America's politi- 
cians, media and NGOs but to America's enterprising corporations 



have 



bottom line by 



>f perform 



ance and profitability. I would urge you to 'Go West', go West bey 
the boundaries of your continent and your current imagination. Be 
companion on our long journey to full modernity. Help us to bui 
new Asia. 

Third, let me speak of productive partnership. Come and let t 
America, Asia and whomsoever wishes — let us join hands in a j' 



A paper delivered at die 3rd Pacific Dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 



November 21. 1996 



103 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



venture, to build a new World, a global commonwealth such as the 
world has never seen, worthy of the hopes of mankind and worthy of 
the 21st century. 

We, all of us have a right to ask that we be allowed to earn our daily 
bread the old feshioned way, through the sweat of our brows and the 
hard work of billions of our people. The developed amongst us have all 
the advantages — ^technology, capital, rich domestic markets, educated 
workforce, market savvy, experience, organisation. They have all the 
products to sell. We in Asia are only begirming to learn to produce 
manufactured goods, relying only on our cheaper labour cost, cheap be- 
cause our cost of living is still low and our expectations not high. Surely 
you must admit that the threat we pose is minimal. Yet of late there has 
been such a crusade for levelling the playing fields. When the contest is 
between giants and midgets, would a level playing field be enough to 
ensure a sporting chance for the midget? Surely many of the business^ 
men of the West and even politicians play golf and understand the need 
for handicaps. 

Most of the developing world have only the industriousness of 
their people to count on and the scraps which they can hope to pick up. 
Yet even this seems to be too much. There are so many amongst the 
rich who want to ensure that this single advantage, this one competi- 
tive element, is neutralised. If the rich take from the poor the only thing 
which they have, the only means by which they can work their way out 
of the pit of poverty, where is the justice? Or does it not matter? 

When America was young and growing, finding its way and work- 
ing its way up in the world, Europe did not demand that European insti- 
tutions be introduced, that European labour practices be adopted, that 

you don't expropriate the land of the natives to grow wheat and to- 
bacco and to rear catde. For a time they even allowed you your slaves. 

Nor did they or anyone else stop you from clearing forests because of 
concern for the wolves and the bears, the mountain lions and the 
rattlesnakes. Europe in feet was happy to buy the products that you ex- 
ported with no question asked. But of course that was then, not now. 
Things are different now. We are all a lot wiser and perhaps a lot more 
humane. But is it humane and wise to keep so many Asians in a state of 
poverty for whatever reason? 

I will not defend pollution and the desecration of the environment, 
the theft of intellectual property, the destruction of whole peoples, 



ill 



m 




! 






POL ITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




child labour. But .asryoii look around, do you see us doing nothing else 
except these tenrible things? We try, but as you may have noticed poor 
people are usually more desperate than the rich. They pollute and they 
chop down trees simply because they cannot help themselves. Electric 
ovens and gas cookers are still luxury items for a majority of Asians. 
Felling trees for firewood or for a living may be the only way out. The 

alternative may be uncooked meals or unemployment. We would like 
to manufacture sophisticated products on our own and market them 
worldwide but most of us don't know how under environmentally ideal 
conditions or cannot afford. Besides, if we do try we are told that we are 
not treating our workers right. Also we have to pay royalties or we are 
simply denied the technology. To subsist we have to chop down forests 
and opt for low tech, low pay labour-intensive industries. 

We speak of Asian values; hard work, respect for authority, disci' 
pline, submission to the interest and the good of the majority and filial 
piety. We now find Asian values equated with authoritarian rule, disre^ 
gard for human and workers rights, political stability and economic suc- 
cess at all costs. We must now discard Asian values and adopt the so- 
called universal values as conceived by the West. 

Our American and European detractors have forgotten that enor- 
mous tribulation separated the clarion call "of "Kbert^, igalitiy jratemM^* 
and a truly democratic France. The First Republic replaced the abso- 
lute monarchy of the ancient regime with the imperial glory of Napo- 
leon. The French saw a revolution not only in 1789 but also in 1830 
and 1848* The 1848 revolution saw the birth of the Second Republic. 
The Third Republic came with the overthrow of Napoleon III after the 
Franco-Prussian War. The Fourth Republic came to an end after World 
War II and the collaboration of the Vichy government with Adolf 
Hitler. It all took time and 1 don't think that even now French democ- 
racy is perfect. 

In the United States, two centuries and one civil war stood be- 
tween the American Declaration of Independence where you so rightly 
proclaimed the virtues of democracy, where you so rightly proclaimed 
that "all men are created equal" and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Two 
hundred years. One civil war. And so many tribulations in between. 

Women were granted the right to vote in Italy only in 1945, in 
Switzerland only a few ye'ars ago. The aborigines of Australia were 
granted citizenship, the right to vote, and full recognition as human be- 

105 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



ings only irvl967. But there still survive a few who^ even now believe 
that the new attitude towards the aborigines and indeed the abolition 

of the White Australia Policy are mistakes. 

So many of us Asians were not granted the right to democracy or 
even the right to govern ourselves, the most fundamental of human 
rights, until recent years. It is interesting that so many of us, who were 
regarded as obviously unfit for self rule and democracy for hundreds of 
years were required to be good or even model practitioners of demoC' 
racy the moment the colonial flag was lowered and the flag of inde^ 
pendence went up. No time at all is given. Perfection at the first try is 
required of us Asians. Having multiparties and holding regular elec- 
tions are not enough. To be truly democratic we must change govern- 
ments with each election, endure civil strifes and frequent disruptive 
demos and strikes and generally verge on anarchy. We should of course 
not do well economically and challenge the established developed 
countries. 

None of these means that democracy is not important for Asia or 
that human rights are of lesser relevance to Asia than it is in other parts 
of the world. To argue the former is to utterly misunderstand the task at 
hand. To argue the latter to Asians who have advanced fester and more 
fundamentally with the human rights of hundreds of millions — ^at 
speeds never before seen in human history — ^is to betray incredible 
myopia and to demonstrate incredible ignorance. 

Asia can no longer sit down and take injury and insult in stoic si- 
lence — ^from those who think that their own complete lack of knowl- 
edge should be no impediment to putting entire countries on trial. We 
of Asia will increasingly demand and we have a right to demand a little 
maturity and sophistication on the part of those who wish to analyse 
and proselytise; who so easily slip into the role of policeman, prosecutor, 
judge and jury; who so habitually try, judge, punish and persecute with- 
out even giving a hearing. 

What Asians need is not theology and the easy assumption that we 
cannot think for ourselves. Once upon a time we might have bought 
snake oil. But we are a little bit more sophisticated now. Too much 
water has flowed under the bridges of history. To those politicians and 
all-knowing NGOs who still want to sell snake oil, we say take some 
yourselves for you may need it more. We would like to point out that 
the oppression of nations by nations is no less undemocratic than the 



106 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



oppression of governments over their citizens. You cannot preach one 
without practising the other. 

Let me now turn to my call to American enterprise to *Go West*, to 
come out in large numbers to what so many of you, and some of us, still 
call "the Far East". The Far East for America is actually Europe up to 
Asia Minor. The world is quite round as has been confirmed by satellite 
pictures. Any place can be the central reference point. Relative to 
America, Asia is the West, Even as you left the cosy comforts of home a 
century and a half ago and built the American West, you should now do 
the same but venture further, across the Pacific in fact and help build 
Asia. You will not have to deal with marauding natives and lose your 
scalps. You will be welcomed instead and you will gain more than you 
ever did when you pioneered the opening of your Wild West. 

In the 21st century, no corporation can be a world player if it is not 
nourished by and strongly anchored in our part of the world. Already, 
the Asia-Pacific is where 60 per cent of the world is. On this planet, at 
this time, already 60 per cent of all the goods and services produced is 
produced in the Asia-Pacific. In the decades ahead, the economic cen- 
tre of gravity must shift Westwards even as it did in America's own his- 
tory only a hundred and fifty years ago. 

To be sure, some of us in Asia may not want you and will not be pre- 
pared to ensure that you and you alone flourish and profit from your en- 
terprise and our enormous dynamism. We would certairJy want a share 
of that profit. That apart, let me say that in most of Asia-Pacific and 
certainly in Malaysia you are most heartily welcome. We need you as 
co-builders of our co-prosperity. If you help us to prosper, then you 
would be building a great market for your goods and expertise, for no 
matter how we try there will always be things that we will need from 
you. No matter how much we want to be independent, we cannot help 
but be inter-dependent. We carmot'only sell to you, we must buy also, 
as much as we realise you must sell in order to be able to buy what we 
want to sell to you. We know this and you know this. 

Asians and Asian values are not identical. We differ quite a bit. 
Mostly we are polite and even accommodating. But sometimes we are 
not. So do not be surprised if the customarily polite becomes firank and 
the usually firankly bmtal becomes nice and accommodating. If I may be 
allowed, I would like to seriously advocate a joint venture between Asia 
and America and others in order to crfeate a single global common- 



107 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



wealth. Yoii see, we do believe in good friendly relations for the com- 
mon good of mankind even. 

A single, interdependent global commonwealth was not possible 
in the great age of colonialism because the world was divided into ex- 
clusive economic blocs, each oriented towards its centre of the imperial 
cosmos* However, it is today possible for the first time in human history. 
Imagine the productive consequences of such a new economic reality. 
It will be the real mechanism which will transform the whole political, 
strategic and psychological make-up of the world. We would indeed 
have a new world. 

In a previous dialogue I suggested that we opt for win-win-win so- 
lutions. I said that we should forever bury the primeval and primordial 
beggar-thy-neighbour reflexes that have been so natural in the past. Let 
us put in their place prosper-thy-neighbour impulses aimed at ensuring 
riiat all our neighbours and all their neighbours, far and near, will pros- 
per. Is it wrong for everyone to be prosperous? I am sure we have no- 
ticed that prosperous people have more time to attend to the well-be- 
ing of human kind, their freedoms and their rights. Wouldn't a com- 
monwealth of nations where wealth would really be common be better 
than wealth that is uncommon for most nations of the world? 

There has been much talk of the 21st century becoming the Asian 
Century. I beg to differ, though. I believe that the 21st century will not 
be the Asian Century in the way that the 19th century was the Euro- 
pean century and much of the 20th was the American century. The 
21st century will be the century when the world takes precedence over 
the narrower interests of nations and continents. This will be best not 
only for the rest of the world but also for Asia. 

But the World Century will not happen if we all talk of the Asian 
Century. We should downplay this Asian Century thing. We should 
play up the 21st century as the World Century, the century when the 
world comes together to build greater prosperity not only for Asians 
but for all mankind. 

We Asians must forego the ego massage that so many others seem 
to need. The idea of Asians lording it over the rest of the world may 
seem attractive and satisfying for Asians. But let us not be lulled by this 
egoistic dream. Yet we must surely want Asia to have a bigger say in the 
making of the 2 1st century. We cannot have a bigger say if we mess up 



108 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



our administrations through democratic irresponsibility, if we unneces- 
sarily confront each other over trivialities, if we fail to seize the hour. 
How can we have a bigger say if we can't even make up our minds what 

to say? 

If we are to command the respect of the world, we do truly need to 
do even better in the process towards modernisation. We must be more 
successful in devising systems of more democratic governance. We 
must advance faster, over a broader front, in the struggle to ensure the 
dignity of man, the dignity of all our citizens, their rights and responsi- 
bilities. 

We have been able to secure the greatest advance of mankind in 
human history in the last generation because we were able to recognise 
what really counts is pragmatism, not ideological fervour; that the wel- 
fare of our people must take precedence over the egos of the few, and 
that well-being can only come from economic growth, not jingoist na- 
tionalism, or even continentalism. 

East Asian and Americans share a common Ocean, the Pacific, 
the Ocean of peace. It may have distanced us from each other in the 
past as the Atlantic never did between Europe and America. But that 
distance is no longer the dividing factor that it was. Where once it took 
months to cross today it takes a matter of hours. And we can talk and 
see each other as if there is no oceanic gap between us. 

It is true that most wars have been waged between close neigh- 
bours But neighbours have been known to form strong and lasting alli- 
ances. Can't we be friends, Asians and Americans? Can't we be a little 
more tolerant of each other's quirks and foibles? Stop comparing. Nei- 
ther of us is perfect, nor either absolutely imperfect. 

During this Pacific Dialogue you will be concentrating construc- 
tively on three subjects: moving forward on the economic front, mov- 
ing forward on the political front and moving forward on the cul- 
ture/civilisation front. To move forward together on any front, we need 
understanding and tolerance. Otherwise we will be moving forward 
against each other and there can only be a destructive clash in the end. 

Almost a thousand ypars ago, as the world that was Europe then 
moved towards the end of the first millennium and the beginning of the 
second millennium, there was near panic and utter depression. This 



was because the learned Christian clerics of that time believed that the 




109 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



world would come to an end exactly a thousand years after the birth of 
Jesus Christ. Economic development wound down. Human endeavour 
petered out. For what was the use of doing anything positive if the 
world was going to come to an abrupt end? 

Today, a thousand years later, we know better. We must seek a new 
beginning. Let our uncommon sense prevail. Let us build as deter- 
minedly as we can destroy. If Asia and America can be joint-venture 
partners in prospering each other, we will surely be the catalyst for a sin- 
gle global commonwealth of common pr(:)sperity and this will surely re- 
sult in a century that is not Asian, not American, nor European, nor 
even African, but a World Century. Idealistic perhaps. But Man, work- 
ing towards an ideal, must achieve something nearly that. 





no 






1 1 

THE NEED FOR 
REFORMS INTH 



UNITED NATION 





I AM HAPPY to acknowledge the appointment of a Malaysian [Tan 
Sri Razali Ismail] as the President of the 51st United Nations General 
Assembly> a first for Malaysia. We are thankful to all member states for 
their support, especially the members of the Asian Group, which en- 
dorsed Malaysia's candidature early. 

I would like to think that the selection has to do with Malaysia's ef- 
forts and involvement with the United Nations and globally. Within 
three years of Malaysia's independence, we were involved in United 
Nations peacekeeping operations in the Congo. Today, in Bosnia-Her- 
zegovina, Malaysia is perhaps the only developing country participating 
in the Nato-led peacekeeping forces, paying in full the cost of our in- 
volvement. Malaysia will continue to participate in international ac- 
tivities. United Nations-sponsored or otherwise, combining altruism 
with enlightened self-interest. 

This time last year, there was much celebration as the United Na- 
tions attained its 50th year. Amidst the celebrations extolling the 
achievements of the United Nations, there were serious concerns ex- 
pressed about the relevance and effectiveness of this organisation, and 
the need for democratic reforms so that the United Nations can better 
fulfil the purposes and principles of the Charter. The 50th anniversary 
came and went and despite the extravaganza, very little has been 
achieved. 



A speech delivered at the 5 1st Session of the United Nations General Assem- 
bly in New York, United States, on September 27, 1996 

111 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



The organisation itself remains distant and removed from the aspi- 
rations of the "peoples of the United Nations" which it is supposed to 
promote and protect. Hopefully, the tragedy of Bosnia-Herzegovina 
will, with international help, be on the mend but Palestine's hopes and 
aspirations have been undermined by the new Israeli government, 
backed unfortunately by some Western powers, backtracking on pain- 
fiiUy negotiated agreements. At this moment, a rash decision by Israel 
not only imperils further the peace process, with lives being lost but can 
inflame and outrage Muslim states and Muslim society if the sanctity of 
the Al-Aqsa Mosque is defiled. In the African continent, Somalia, 
Rwanda and Liberia remain on the razor's edge of survival while Bu- 
rundi awaits United Nations and regional initiatives to avoid a catas- 
trophe. And there are countries like Afghanistan, victims of the Cold 
War, abandoned by the major powers, needing help to reconstruct and 
overcome the destruction wrought by war. And what will be the fate of 
tiny Chechnya and its valiant people, facing the full onslaught of 
mighty Russia? 

While some developing countries get fragmented and marginal- 
ised, the process of power accretion and benefits continue Avith the ma- 
jor countries, aided by their control of the Security Council, their mo- 
nopoly of nuclear power and their economic high ground. One sees 
various twists and turns, double standards and selectivity, as the dic- 
tates of domestic politics overrule justice and humanitarianism in inter- 
national affairs. Commitment to multilateralism is so qualified and in- 
vestment in the United Nations so tentative that common needs have 
often been sacrificed. 

Now, as the United Nations begins its 51st session, we urge again 
that the international community work collectively for substantial 
change, reflecting a more equitable sharing of political and economic 
powen This call for reform is made even more urgent when we consider* 
that the premises by which international relations are conducted today 
continue to perpetuate a grossly unjust system. 

The systematic abuse of power by the major countries has contin- 
ued. They apply selective sanctions and double standards on the devel- 
oping world to promote their narrow national interests. Clearly disre- 
garding multilateralism, with its inherent qualities of mutual respect 
and shared interests, the North continues their vice-like grip on all 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




spheres of international activity — politics, international trade, devel- 
opment, the environment and the media, to name a few. 

Elitism exercised by the major countries is frequently cloaked as 
"globalism" or as serving the common interests of nations. However, 
even a cursory examination of this brand of globalism reveals it to be 
sanctimonious, if not hypocritical. For example, under the guise of safe- 
guarding "international peace and security", the nuclear-weapon states 
maintain their right to destroy, or threaten to destroy, all life on this 
planet. Yet these countries deny others even the right to use conven- 
tional weapons for self-defence. 

Malaysia deeply regrets the lack of a consensus on the Compre- 
hensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but welcomes its subsequent adop- 
tion by the 50th General Assembly, We worry about nuclear aspirations 
in our region and that of Israel. To a large extent, the refusal of the Nu- 
clear Weapon States to a timetable for nuclear disarmament is respon- 
sible for this situation and seriously flaws the Comprehensive Test Ban 
Treaty. Malaysia is encouraged by the recent International Court of 
Justice advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear 
weapons. To render the Court's finding meaningful there should be se- 
rious efforts made towards accelerating the process of nuclear disarma- 
ment, including the early convening of a Special Session of the General 
Assembly devoted to disarmament. 

While these major powers advocate peace and condemn arms 
races by others, their industries aggressively develop and promote the 
sales of defense technologies and weapons of death. Like a drug dealer 
supplying his helplessly addicted victims, the Northern-based arms in- 
dustries keep poor countries mired in a cycle of poverty and insecurity, 
laying waste vital human skills and resources. 

Perhaps such political elitism comes naturally to these powerfiil 
countries, many of which were imperial powers before. A clue as to 
their priorities for the global agenda is to be found in the recent com- 
munique of the G7 Economic Summit. Reform of the United Nations, 
in particular the Security Courvcil, as urgent issues gave way to the pre- 
eminence of globalisation of the world economy. And so the Security 
Council remains as a blunt instrument of the foreign policies of the per- 
manent members. 




J 13 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



terms 



terdependence" and "mutual interests". Multilateralism has been el- 
bowed aside. Yet multilateralism is the foundation of international rela- 
tions and cooperation which the United Nations symbolises. From now 
on globalisation will take over and nations will lose their sovereignty. 

Consider the current financial crisis that faces this organisation. 
The United Nations is on the verge of bankruptcy, being held to ran- 
som by its major donor country, the wealthiest nation in the world. 
That country refuses to meet its assessed and legally due contributions, 
yet insists on maintaining its hegemony on global management. 

The major powers' solution to the United Nations stalemate is to 
speak of revitalising the United Nations as if they were conducting a 
corporate downsizing exercise. While ending bureaucratic inefficien- 
cies and the wasteful use of resources are important, we should be 
mindful that the United Nations is not a business house or entity. Over 
concentration on internal management issues can deflect the United 



WhUe 



management 



Lgnthi 



impossil 



does 



undertake peace 
tokeepthepeaceJ 



? 



We find the inequities of power-sharing in the United Nations to 
be intolerable and view with alarm prevailing trends to weaken this or- 
ganisation further. Already, the centre of gravity for all principal eco- 
nomic decisions that affect developing countries is vested in the un- 
democratic Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organisation 
(WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and, of course, the 
self-appointed Group of 7 (G7) leading industrialised countries. 

Strengthening multilateralism requires a reform of the Bretton 
Woods institutions which dominate the development scene. These in- 
stitutions are operating against their overall mandate. Decision-mak- 
ing is undemocratic and non-transparent. Despite their specific man- 
dates to focilitate development and regulate the international mone- 
tary system, these institutions are used to discipline Third World coun- 
tries, and to act as debt collectors for the rich North. It is salutary to 
note that the World Bank collected a net amount of US$7.2 billion in 

114 





DEMOCRACY 



1995 in debt repayment over and above what it disbursed in ; 
poor indebted countries and raked in a profit of almost US$1 
The International Monetary Fund has now become an enfor 



assuming the role of a global 



ing agency 



The majority of poor developing countries are saddled with 



and growth- Debt servicing 



having 



able and debtor countries as a consequence can do little to alleviate 
their poverty and misery. The chilling numbers speak for themselvei 
more is spent on servicing debt than on financing basic programmes for 
healthcare, education and humanitarian relief 

The reductions in the commitments for concessional assistance by 
almost all the industrial countries mark a turning point in international 
development cooperation. Bluntly put, the rich have reneged on sol- 
emn commitments and pledges. The cutbacks in pledges for the replen- 
ishment of international development assistance (IDA), and unwill- 
ingness to clear earlier arrears, triggered by a unilateral decision of the 
major contributor to scale back its contributions, have led other donors 
to scale back their contributions as well. 

Now that the concept of globalism is so intimately linked with in- 
ternational trade, it is important to critically examine the realities of 
this so-called "free trade". The painfully long history of the Uruguay 
Round negotiations should have forewarned us that the WTO, al- 
though established as a rules-based multilateral organisation to regu- 
late international trade, will become answerable only to the world's 
wealthiest economic powers. Like the Bretton Woods institutions, the 
WTO remains outside any relationship of accountability to the far 
more democratic Uhited Nations General Assembly. 

During the Uruguay Round, the developing countries discovered 
that instead of negotiating international rules on trade in manufac- 
tured goods, the rich countries of the North had widened the agenda 
and pushed for liberalisation in economic areas where they clearly have 
an advantage, in particular financial services and investments. 

Even though some countries of the South have benefited from the 
liberalisation of trade (Malaysia being one of them) , the GATT agree- 
ment nevertheless harbours new threats to developing and newly 



115 




pH^p 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



emerging economies. Not only have the poor countries of the South to 
stniggle uphill merely to meet the basic needs of their peoples, but they 
are now bullied into adjusting their economic policies to meet their 
new obligations under GATT so that Northern-based corporations can 
penetrate and capture their markets. The poor may not reserve their 
markets for themselves even when they have no capacity to penetrate 



the markets of the rich. 



aymg fields are only for th 
le environment and labour 



to trade in manufactured goods is a clear attempt to deny developing 
countries their meagre competitive advantage. The relationship be- 
tween trade and labour standards emerged not because of a concem for 
the well-being of workers in poor countries, but as protectionist moves 

aimed against growing and competitively-priced imports from the 
South. 

To compound this unfair interpretation of the multilateral trade 
rules, we find that when it comes to technology transfer; the Northern 
countries take a fiercely anti-liberal stand, insisting that all WTO 
member states compulsorily introduce a set of national laws to protect 
intellectual property rights. Since most patents are owned by the 



drastic 



means legal protection of their technological 



have access to new technology. 

It appears therefore that the Northern interpretation of "free 
trade" and "liberalisation" are slogans that in reality mean liberalisation 
when it benefits the North but protectionism if it can block the South. 
Thus while goods and capital are permitted and encouraged to move 



labour and 



TT rules and the WTO 



And one country blatantly undermining the WTO by enacting extra- 
territorial laws which must be submitted to by all nations and their 
companies on pains of ex-communication. 

The GATT agreement also foils to protect the genetic resources of 
the South while allowing genetically modified materials to be patented. 
We now have a situation where theft of genetic resources by Westem 
biotech transnational corporations (TNCs) enables them to make 
huge profits by producing patented genetic mutations of these same 



116 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



materials. What depths have we sunk to in the global marketplace 
when nature's gifts to the poor may not be protected but their modifica- 
tions by the rich become exclusive property. 

There are of course many gainers and losers in the world of the 
WTO, but we are concerned that the major losers will once again be 
the poorest and most marginalised countries. A small number of devel- 
oping countries, like Malaysia, have benefited. But let me point out 
that our gains have been through thrift, productivity and ingenuity of 
our people, hard- earned firuits of our labour. Lest it be forgotten, our 
newfound prosperity has also benefited those in the developed coun- 



tries. Our products are competitively priced — contributing to lowered 



inflation in the rich countries. Our prosperity has provided vast and ex- 
panding markets for the goods of rich countries — creating jobs and 
helping to lower their unemployment rates. 

The term "globalisation" has become the buzzword of our times. In 
the G7 communique, globalisation was touted as "the source of hope 
for the future, responsible for the expansion of wealth and prosperity in 
the world." However, some would argue tliat globalisation, with its ob- 
jective of breaking down borders and sucking the countries of the world 
into one single economic entity has eclipsed multilateralism or at- 
tempts to masquerade as the same thing. Indeed, globalisation has been 
described by the rich as a "new global partnership for development". 

If the current behaviour of the rich countries is anything to go by, 
globalisation simply means the breaking down of the borders of coun- 
tries so that those with the capital and the goods will be free to domi- 
nate the markets. Colonies in the former British Empire will remember 
"Imperial Preference" when they were made the exclusive markets of 
the metropolitan power. Globalisarion can mean just that except that 
the world market will belong to the rich nations. Linkages to non-trade 
issues will prevent the poor from ever challenging the rich, in the same 
way the colonies were not allowed to industrialise. 

We do indeed live in a brutal and unjust world where the 
astonishing developments in science and technology, and our increas- 
ingly sophisticated knowledge base, are not matched by the ability of 
governments to marshal forces to overcome the social and economic 
inequities of their countries. The facts and figures are well documented 
and widely known, but it is worth repeating j ust to jog our conscience, if 
we still have any. 

117 







MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




What are* the universal values of this globalised world when in- 
creasing num&ei^ of people in both the North and South live in abject 
poverty? Imagine, 1 .3 billion people, a fifth of the human race, lack ac- 
cess to the most basic necessities, such as food and clean drinking water, 
while preventable hunger and disease kill 35,000 children throughout 
the world every day. The 1996 United Nations Human Development Re- 
port states that in the last 40 years, the richest 20 per cent of people 
have seen the differential between themselves and the poorest 20 per 
cent double. 

Are we expected to believe in the sincerity of the rich countries 
when they talk about a "new global partnership" and "the achievement 
of sustainable development" when the facts are that today we have 
over 20 million environmental refugees in addition to an equal number 
of traditional refugees. Why should the developing countries accept 
the twisted lexicon of Northern development-speak — ^when "develop- 
ment assistance" means that the net flow of wealth from poor to rich 
countries has increased to at least US$400 billion a year, when the 
terms of trade, transfer pricing, debt servicing and the brain drain are 
taken into account. 

Wading through the burdens of this strife-torn world is a critical di- 
lemma that confronts the international community today. It is one of 
international leadership and the failure to deal with these critical issues. 
Instead we witness a persistent abnegation by the major powers of the 
responsibilities that accompany the rights and privileges of such 
authority. We must determine the type of world and society we want to 
live in and these should be based on truly universal values. 

As we approach the third millennium where the pre-eminence of 
transnational forces has blurred the definition of national sovereignty, 
we must seriously question why a powerful minority are still allowed to 
bankrupt and coerce the majority to meet their narrow economic and 
political ends. The poor are no longer independent. They have already 
lost control over their own currency. And now they have lost their bor- 
ders too. 

Freedom of the press is touted as a basic democratic principle. But 
control of the media by a handful of Western corporations has miade a 
mockery of this principle. Proclaiming to be "windows on the world", 
the Western media, manipulated and censored by those in control, in- 
variably manage to distort reports so as to put anything happening in 



]J8 








POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




the South in the worst possible light. Anything positive in the develop- 
ing countries is ignored. 

The growth and influence of electronic, satellite and information 
technology is astounding. But its impact poses one of the biggest politi- 
cal and ethical challenges of our time, subverting and distorting our so- 
cial consciousness. The elites of the North and South have become 
blind to the enormities of reality. Events and people are stripped of their 
context, so we become less capable of recognising the common human- 
ity and equal rights of all people in the world. Pictures of poverty and 
inequality are no longer received with moral outrage, but become sim- 
ple facts of life. Thus begins the process of dehumanisation and disen- 
gagement from the rest of human society. 

Although without doubt the information age will bring cheap and 
easy access to knowledge and education, and will facilitate worldwide 
business, already its abuse is affecting the moral values of the world. 
Smut and violence gratuitously distributed by criminals in the North is 
no less polluting than carbon dioxide emissions nor less dangerous than 
drug trafficking. If one great power can apply its laws to citizens of an- 
other country considered guilty of drug trafficking, why can't countries 
with different moral codes extradite the traffickers of pornography for 
legal action under the laws of the offended nation? Why can*t there be 
international laws and international courts to punish those who spread 
filth and incite racial hatred and violence? Before the whole world sinks 
deeper into moral decay, the international community should act. 
Abuse of the ubiquitous Internet system must be stopped. 

Monopoly of the electronic media by the North should be broken. 
As it is, we are getting slanted news made worse by broadcasters inter- 
preting in favour of their own or their countries' interests. As usual, the 
poor countries with no role in operating the international media, have 
become the principal victims of "world news networks". Not only are 
distorted pictures of our countries being broadcast but our own capac- 
ity to understand what is happening is being undermined. In the past, 
Western missionaries spread the gospel. Today, the media has taken 
over and all our cherished values and diverse cultures are being de- 
stroyed. 

The United Nations has not always been a failure. In its early years 
it helped to dismantle the empires of Western European countries. Ma- 
laysia is gratefiil for it too won freedom because of the moral suasion of 




119 







MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



the United Nations. But the United Nations now seems blind to what 
is being done towards Iraq and Chechnya. One great power continues 
its vendetta against Iraq, firing missiles at distant targets to bring Iraqi 
leadership to its knees, oblivious to the sufferings of the besieged Iraqi 
people. Another power has shut the gates of mercy on the Chechens 
and with rockets and bombs have killed indiscriminately and with ap- 
palling brutality in order that Chechnya remains part of an empire. 
How much more should the Chechens suffer before the Security Coun- 
cil takes notice? Where are the vaunted defenders of human rights who 
claim that national borders will not stop them? 

It is a fact that every year many statements are made at the United 
Nations that lament the crises of poverty, Third World debt, human- 
rights abuse, conflicts and wars, social disintegration and environ- 
mental degradation. It has become a boring and redundant exercise. 
And yet nothing much has been done which could bring about the 
amelioration of this sad state of affeirs. Perhaps it is because the proc- 
esses of inter-govemmental consensus decision-making of the United 
Nations are tedious and frustrating. Perhaps it is the mismanagement 
by the governments of so many of the poor nations which afford many 
excuses for the rich not to help. 

It is of course easy to use the United Nations as a forum to unmask 
the hypocrisies of both the North and the South, but it is more difficult 
to work collectively to implement change and solve problems. Still Ma- 
laysia believes this repetitive criticism is valid and necessary, that inter- 
national injustices and oppressions should not be swept into the dust- 
bins of history. I would like to say again that Malaysia strongly believes 
in the multilateralism of the United Nations and is prepared to invest in 
this international organisation with all our strength, beliefs and moral 

fibre. 




120 





12 
THE ASIAN CENTURY: 

A MALAYSIAN 
PERSPECTIVE 







WHAT is the Malaysian perspective on the "Asian Century"? By 
"Asian Century" I presume we mean the 21st century which many 
have predicted will be the century when Asia will dominate the world* 
This idea of domination by a continent is too simplistic an idea and is 
really not reflective of the times. 

One can perhaps accurately describe the 19th century as the Euro^ 
pean Century. In fact, European domination of the world started in 
1492, the year Christopher Columbus "discovered" America, but we 
know that the "Indians" were there before him. But the Europeans 
have always considered Europe as the centre of the world and every- 
thing else revolve around it. 

Part of the 20th century also has been described as the American 
Century. In the aftermath of World War II, America indeed dominated 
the world. Half the world's economy was generated by the United 
States. But in the last quarter of the 20th century, America, or more 
correctly the United States, is no longer the dominant world power. It 
is, however, still the world's dominant military power. If we take this fiact 
into consideration, then the 20th century can be described as the 
American Century. Of course, the end of the Cold War and the demise 
of the Soviet Union make this assertion quite true. 

There is much talk about the next century being the Asian Cen- 
tury. The hypothetical Asian Century has become a favoured subject 



An address delivered at the 2nd Malaysia-China Forum in Beijing, China, on 
August 26, 




121 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



worthy of learned discussion at many universities and seminars around 
the world, and in the West, the focus was often on the perceived danger 
that such a development would pose to humanity at large. To the most 
prejudiced, it was the Yellow Peril all over again, and this time there are 
tinges of brown as well. There is fear that the new Genghis Khans and 
the whole Tartar-Mongol hordes are about to ravage, savage and pillage 
the world, killing, raping and abducting flaxen-haired damsels after the 
gallant men had been massacred 

China has come in for special attention. For years it has been con- 
demned for beii^ communist and isolationist, practising a closed cen- 
trally-planned economy- Now it has opened up and has adopted a ver- 
sion of the market system. Instead of being welcomed to die fold, it is 
looked upon with fear and suspicion. The World Bank has sounded the 
alarm by predicting that China will emerge in the 21st century as the 
greatest world economic power, ftielling mounting fear of China. 

Suggestions have been made that China will be a threat if it is not 
already one. Action must be taken to curb China's increasing economic 
clout. Alliances, especially military and economic alliances, must be 
formed against it. If China joins any grouping, that grouping must have 
the presence of a particular Western superpower, Japan and Korea have 
been told to be aware. They must not enter into any alliances where 
China is a member but none of the Western powers are. 

That China, unlike countries in the West, has never conquered, 
much less colonised, its neighbours should not be taken to mean that it 
will not do so now. China is big and powerftil, and so it must have impe- 
rial ambitions, it is argued. 

That there are today powers outside Asia who have in feet tried to 
arrogate to themselves extraterritorial rights do not seem to faze them 
one bit when they play up the China bogey. We Asians must trust non- 
Asians because we Asians are less trustworthy. It hurts us Asians that 
people should tell us to trust them simply because they are not Asians. 
The implication is that we ourselves are untrustworthy. 

The fact is, the Asian Century is not even likely to materialise. Asia 
is not Europe. Asia is only an arbitrary geographical entity. It is not a po- 



ethnic enritv. The 



Asia are so different from 



Asians but as distinct ethnic groups. While Europeans and Ameri 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



amongst Asian 



known 



Asian 



I Asians into bitterly antagonistic groups. In the ex- 
Asian continent, the Muslim Arabs are still fighting 
lv, the Hebrew lews. In South Asia. Hindus are still 



Muslims and Buddhists are still fighting 



has 



KDreans are still glaring 



World Jewry seems prepared to overlook and foi 
mitted by the Nazis during World War II. Asians 



of World War 



that war 



now. 




With all this diversity, can there be an Asian Century? 

Even in economics, the development of Asia is uneven. While 
many Asian countries are impoverished, others are wallowing in great 
wealth. Most of the economic growth is happening only in one comer 
of Asia, in East Asia, Even Southeast Asia is not really deygloped eco' 
nomically, and some countries are still dependent on WestEln aid. 

The East Asians from where the Asian shock troops for the Asian 
Century are supposed to come from also appear unlikely to cooperate 
with each other on economic issues. The idea of an East Asian Eco' 
nomic Caucus, for example, has been rejected by the major East Asian 
countries simply because they feel their loyalties do not lie with Asia. 

Most Asians also have yet to get over the feeling of inferiority that 
decades and centuries of colonialism have wrought in them. They are 
politically independent, but psychologically, they remain colonised. 
Their value system and their way of thinking are still very much domi- 
nated by Western thinkers. 

The point I am trying to make is that the Asian Century, if indeed 
there will be one, will pose no threat to anyone. It is likely to implode as 
a result of its own weight and centripetal pressures. Some countries in 
Asia will be powerful, but they will be powerful on their own, as coun- 
tries of Asia and not as Asians of the Asian corttinent. 

The likelihood of Asia (or an Asian nation) dominating the world 
is actually a fanciful dream. The more likely scenario for the future will 



123 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



be a world where there will be many powers, economic powers mainly. 
Not all of them will be Asians. There will be, as there are now, Euro- 
pean and American powers, each a match for the others. All these 
powers in Asia and outside Asia will act as the locomotives of growth 
for the rest of the world. They will invest in pcx^r countries and they will 
be the markets for the products of these poor countries, products which 
will be manufectured by their own subsidiaries. In the process, the poor 
countries will be enriched, and then, of course, they will buy the prod- 
ucts of the rich countries. 




will 



Asian 



the interests of the world takes precedence over the narrow interests of 



continents or nations. 



Even now we can see how we need each other, how continents and 



The wealth of East Asia 



Asia 



between Asia and the West. Europe and America served as the engine 
of growth for Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and now for the 
so-called tigers of Southeast Asia. 

Trade between East Asian countries is growing by leaps and 
bounds. This is only natural. As the East Asian countries grow richer. 



wUl 



Asians have already said thev do not want to form 



blocs. They believe in open regionalism. But clearly the West does not 
seem to trust them, to take them at their word. 

Perhaps the West have reasons for doubting the words of Asians. 
Some Asian countries have always been unwilling to open up their 



They say they want to open up their markets. They 



against trade. The West is justified in not trusting As 
o tar all Asians with the same brush? Some Asian cc 



tariffbar 



may be slow 



time. Some are obviously oDenine up now. The 



West seems 



;y believe that Asians would never have the products, n 
goods in particular, to compete in their markets. They 



ipoly of the manufacturing 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



sector had been broken. The cheap, poor quality Asian goods which 
had challenged them in the past (and which they had carelessly 



West 



igh quality goodi 



which can only be regarded as unethical. 



Asian 



If the ethnic Europeans can overcome these prejudices, trade and 



Asian 



America 



World 



of true international interdependence. 

If I may, I would like to expound on a Malaysian experiment which 
may have some relevance to the idea of being interdependent members 
of the world community of nations. 

In Malaysia, as in many other countries, the government had long 
regarded the private sector as selfish and avaricious. The administra- 
tion kept itself apart from the business community, and made life as dif- 
ficult as possible for businesspeople. Rules and regulations, laws and red 
tape were designed to impress upon businesspeople the superiority of 
the administrators. The businesspeople were made to realise that al- 
though they may hold all the money, they will always be at the bottom 
of the pecking order. 

But one day it dawned upon the government that this confronta- 
tional stance between the administration and the business community 
was not contributing at all to the well-being of the nation. If we must 
have the private sector, why not cooperate with them? And as a conse- 
quence, Malaysia officially adopted what we call the Malaysia Inc con- 




In other words, the change from a confrontational stance to one of 
cooperation between the two entities helped to accelerate the develop- 
ment of Malaysia. Other factors have contributed towards this growth, 



of course, but a business-friendly administration has helped to expedite 
approvals, the main obstacle in the development of any country. And 
so Malaysia today is very different from what it was before the adoption 
of the Malaysia Inc concept. 

The lesson of this experience is obvious. Cooperation rather than 
confrontation is better for everyone. Now, if instead of fearing Asian 



125 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



countries and attempting to obstnict their progress, the West cooper- 
ates and helps instead, all will profit in one way or another. Less time 
will be wasted trying to find ways to frustrate each other and to delay 
what must happen some day anyway. 

Malaysia believes in "prospering thy neighbour", not "beggaring 
thy neighbour". By doing so, Malaysia will prosper also. On a grander 
scale, if the West will help Asia to prospei; the West will prosper too. In- 
deed, if Asia and the West prosper then the whole world will prosper; 
including Africa and Latin America. 

There will then be no Asian Century. Instead, there will be, for the 
first time, a World Century, a century of prosperity for everyone. And 
all that is needed for this to happen is to stop making a bogey of Asian 
countries. We do not want to be prosperous for the purpose of making 
others poor. It is not a zero-sum game that we are after. A world of haves 
and have-nots adds nothing to the sum total of the achievements of 
this modem world. A world of haves will result in more wealth for eve- 



ryone 



too 



ideals, then life would become very barren indeed. Ideals are meant to 
be strived for. 

The 21st century will see a different world, a world so shrunken 
that we cannot even recognise borders anymore. We are told that with 
Information Technology we have to accept a borderless world. If there 
is to be a market, it will no longer be a European market, an American 
market or an Asian market. It will be a world market in which no conti- 
nent or country can be neglected. With this, there can be no isolating 
anyone, neither countries nor continents. 

Some countries in Asia will emerge as great economic powers. But 
most will be mediocre or poor. Just because a few will become rich and 
presumably powerful does not mean that Asia would be powerful. The 
average Asian per capita will remain very low by comparison to that in 
the West. 

Let US' forget this ego-massaging theme: the Asian Century. Let us 
not make a bogey of it. If China becomes, by sheer weight of numbers, 
the world's greatest economic entity, it will still not become the Middle 
Kingdom again. There will be no Silk Road, no Genghis Khan, no Tar- 
tar or Mongol hordes. But there will be many Asians and ethnic Euro- 



126 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



peans scurrying around to do business in the World Century. Except Ja- 
pan, technologically the ethnic Europeans will still have the edge. 
Asians will continue to buy European technology and apply it to their 
business. And the world will be all the richer for it. 

The peoples of the world are going to be more mobile. They are go- 
ing to migrate, at times in very large numbers. They will not be so easily 
assimilated. As a result, there will be practically no single ethnic nation. 
All countries will have multiracial populations like Malaysia. Most of 
them will not only remember their roots; they are going to retain their 
links with their countries of origin. 

So for we have seen only African, Arab and Asian migration to 
European countries. The day will certainly come when Europeans will 
migrate and settle in Asian and African countries. They will come from 
Eastern Europe initially but eventually the Western Europeans will fol- 
low. 

The implication is that Asian may not mean Asian anymore in the 
21st century. The countries may be of Asia but the peoples will be 
mixed, with increasingly larger European minorities. The cross-fertili- 
sation of cultures will change the character of Asia as it will change 
Europe and America, The result again will not be a monolithic Asia 
that will dominate the 21st century. There can be no Asian Century. 

The Asian Century is a myth, a tantalising myth for Asians, a scary 
myth for Europeans, but a myth neveitheless. Let us forget this Asian 
Century myth and let us now begin the creETtion of the World Century. 




127 






13 















I AM SURE that Asia will face a lot of challenges but I believe that in 
the last few years of the 20th century and on to the year 2020, Asia faces 
three very basic challenges. 

The first is the challenge of domestic reform and revolution. The 
second is the challenge of regional cooperation and friendship. The 
third is the challenge of striving for a more just and more productive 
new world order. All three constitute what I would refer to as the chal- 
lenge of achieving an Asian Renaissance. 

Of these three basic challenges, the domestic challenge is perhaps 
by far the most important. For Asia to grow and prosper it must accept 
and manage reform and revolution in individual Asian countries. 

Asia has done well so far but there is no time for euphoria. There 
must be no resting on laurels. We must understand that we have only 
just begun. It is even useful to minimise our own accomplishments, if 
we want to avoid irritating those who fear the so-called Asian chal- 
lenge*, those who have lost confidence in their own ability to compete, 
those societies which know that in order to meet the world head on 
they will need to change their ways but are either unwilling or unable to 
do so. 

Humility is good for us but it should be the humility of good man- 
ners not the humility of those with an inferiority complex which will 
only stunt or delay our progress. 



A speech delivered at the 1996 Regional Conference of Harvard Clubs of 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




Our progress of course is not just economic. We have made politi- 
cal progress also, though not in the way approved by the West. 

Domestically we have foregone much of our old authoritarian 
ways. We are not all democratic but elements of democratic thinking 
and caring for our people have influenced our thoughts and action. 

Regionally, there are still many areas of tension, unresolved 
boundary issues and many potential causes of conflict. These things 
notwithstanding, we have not had as much peace in the last century 
and a half as we have now. We have not known such relative tranquil- 
lity for a himdred and fifty years. There are no wars between nations in 
East Asia. We keep our powder dry, but the guns are silent. 

Economically, we have been the world's record breakers in terms of 
dynamism and growth for more than a generation. This is even more 
remarkable because as recently as 1950, Japan had a per-capita income 
half that of India and Pakistan. We don*t have to bring the per-capita 
income of the United States, Switzerland and Sweden into the reckon- 
ing. It was only in 1960 that the per-capita income of Malaysia reached 
that of Haiti. Today, the standard of living of Malaysia is ahead of al- 
most all the major countries in the Americas save only the United 
States and Canada. 



Asian 



of Western 



America, a giant leap when it is noted that even in 1980 our total re- 
gional GDP was only two thirds that of Western Europe or Northern 
America. According to the World Bank, by 2020, seven of the ten larg- 
est economies in the world will be those of Asian countries. There are 
some who believe that by the year 2030 East Asia will be the size of 
North America and Western Europe put together. These forecasts are 
not made on the basis of simplistic straight-line projections. 



una 



Asia becoming the engine of growth 




too happy. There is verv little talk about 



signs that spanners will be thrown 



frequently and deliberately. 
There is a political analogy 



opposite and equal reaction. In pol 



will often be opposite. Thus the 






POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



World Bank's predictions of China have cost that nation dearly, and 
will continue to cost China dearly. The same goes for all the talk on the 
East Asian 'miracle*. 

We can of course look at the past with some satisfaction. But as I 
said there is no room for euphoria, there is no cause for complacency. 
We must never forget that pride almost always comes before a fell. 

Theodore Roosevelt, during World War II, said that: "The only 
thing we have to fear is fear itself" But we must understand that there is 
another side to the coin. For some of the more exuberant amongst us it 
is worth reminding that what we may have to fear is the lack of fear it- 
self Freedom from fear leads to complacency and over-confidence. It is 
the disease which has affected the old developed countries of the West. 

There is a second, more importantly, more basic, reason why we 
must emphasise the necessity of the most serious, singleminded pursuit 
of reform and revolution. There are so many things wrong in our socie- 
ties that must be put right. The distance to be travelled is so far and the 
time we must spend in traversing the distance is so short that the word 
* revolution* is most apt. 

We need not spill a single drop of blood. The changes must be or- 
derly, not tumultuous. But revolutionary, orderly and radical change 

there must be. 

What are the key areas for domestic reform and revolution? The 
exact priorities are of course different in different Asian societies. Al- 
though we have made political progress many of us still need to discard 
loyalty to old and clearly impractical ideologies. We have to make up 
our minds ourselves, without any push by others. But the outdated eco- 
nomic theories which had resulted in the formulation of these ideolo- 



models 



we must adjust our politics to suit them. 



reform 



is for }<aizen, constant improvement, constant fine tuning, as our socie- 
ties continue to be dramatically transformed. In some societies in the 
Western world, there is the belief that "if it ain*t broke, don*t fbc it", In all 
our societies, we must bend to the }<aizen principle: if it isn't perfect, per- 
fect it. 

We in Malaysia have always practised democracy. Some may dis- 
pute this but let us remember that those holier-than-thou democrats 



131 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



too particular about democratic prin 




down 



throats. We are democratic because the essence of democracy is major 
ity rule and the right to bring down a govemment without resort to vio 
lence and civil war. We therefore commend democracy as the ideal po 
litical system for Asian countries. 

Still it is foolish to even think that democracy can be a panacea 
The theology of democracy can sometimes be somewhat infantile anc 



vociferous 



)mmend democracy despite the 
weaknesses and can be unprod 



even counterproductive at times. I commend democracy despite the 
fact that many Asian countries have succeeded only in establishing de- 
mocracies where democracy's weaknesses run riot, rather than building 
democracies where democracy's profound strengths hold sway. 

Although Asian countries have mostly done well, there is still the 
need for economic reform and revolution. We have done remarkably 
well in the past. But we must never forget that the tremendous eco- 
nomic results of yesterday were the result of what was done and what 
was achieved before yesterday. We must now lay the foundations for 
equally tremendous results tomorrow and in the decades to come. 

And we cannot do this without domestic economic reforms and 
continued societal revolution. In this regard, I believe there are few 
things more important than the struggle for increasing productivity. 

Paul Krugman reiterates that there is no such thing as the Asian 
^miracle'. He is right. There was no waving of the magic wand. There 
was no magic. There is no mystique. We did it the old-fashioned way, 
through the investment of an ocean of sweat, through the investment 
of massive capital, and through improving the comprehensive produc- 
tivity of our societies (what economists call *total factor productivity', 
TFP) . He is right in saying that the old fashioned way is" the only way 
anyone gets great economic results. His theory is right. He is even right 
about many Asian tiger and dragon economies having done badly with 
regard to total factor productivity. 

He is only wrong with regard to some of his statistics. And he is 
profoundly wrong in assuming that those who have been poor produc- 



132 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



tivity perfonners in the past will be poor productivity performers in the 
future. 

If the East Asian economies have shown anything, they have 
shown intellectual honesty in discovering the obvious, in discovering 
the well-trodden path to dynamic economic development, in discover- 
ing the only means of achieving massive growth. Our genius has arisen 
from being able to do what everybody knows, in being able to do the ob- 
vious, in being able to get our people to scrape, save and sweat, to do 
what needs to be done. 

What East Asians need to do now, without exception, is to mount 
a massive productivity push and to move our economic systems to new 
levels of productivity performance. 

We may not all succeed in our struggle for productivity. Some will 
no doubt foil We must expect to pay the price. If we fa;ll we must get up 
and push again. 

The sceptical wodd should watch what Asians are doing and take 
it as examples for them, for Asians who trade know that poor trading 
partners are no good to anyone. We want everyone to prosper for as we 
all know a world divided into haves and have nots is not going to be an 
objective worth struggling for. Such a world is no good for anyone. 

There is a third item on our domestic agenda which needs to be 
emphasised. We must ensure that our political development and eco- 
nomic growth must be accompanied with or result in social justice for 



all. 



The challenge of soc 



the absolute eradication of absolute poverty, to ensuring sound judicial 
systems, the rule of law, equality, the protection and fostering of women 
and children, helping the disadvantaged and those left behind by de- 
velopment. 



The 



cannot go wrong 



man, he is the world. 



citizens is important 



Let me now turn to the second fundamental challenge that Asia 
s: the challenge of regional friendship and prosperity. So many of us 
t been strangers to each other for so long, so many of us have been 



too 



133 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



dared to ask the most basic and obvious of questions: why can we not, 
why should we not be friends? 

We need to escape the mindset dictated in capitals in other conti- 
nents, many of whom may not have a similar interest in our peace and 
our friendship. It is touching how so many of us in Asia seem to assume 
that others can have a greater interest in the welfare of Asia than 
Asians do. It is remarkable how much we borrow from others in terms 
of what to think about, how to think about the things we think about, 




about the thines we think about 



psychological servitude 



subservience 



The minimal task of regional statesmanship lies in ensuring that 
e of us slip down the slippery slope towards violent conflict. The 
task of regional statesmanship lies in building a warm and coopera- 

n our East Asian Home — ^initially and in the rest of Asia 



eventually. 
In trying 



East Asian 



must be built largely by us on the basis of non military balances and alll 



ances. 



The 



themselves 



Asia, will 



own 



swer 



Realists* there is not a single one 



against the United States or even against Japan. It is quite obvious who 
they want to create an alliance against. China is the mother of all 
threats. When there is a shortage of security threats, China can always 
be trotted up. 



today, especially since the World 



emerging 



We 



ous marketing since the days of John Foster Dulles (18884959). I am 
most perturbed since I know that once we treat nations as if they are 
the enemy of tomorrow, they will rapidly become the enemy of today. 




134 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



In speaking against the Balance of Power approach to the making 
of the East Asian Peace, I am not dismissing the importance of military 
capability. Obviously, some nations in the region must militarily build 
up even as some should militarily draw down. 

The hard Balance of Power approach must mean the creation of al- 
liances and counter-alliances, the drawing of lines between friends and 
foes and the division of East Asia into rival camps. This is not only 
counterproductive but is most unwise. 

When we start to arm to the teeth in order to be able to adequately 
*deal' militarily with each other and to forcefully balance each other, 
what are the psychological costs in terms of suspicion, the erosion of 
trust and the undermining of whatever confidence that had been built; 
not to mention of course the horrendous cost and waste of money and 
time and effort. If we prepare for war, are we not more likely to get war 
rather than peace? Is real peace, as opposed to the mere absence of war, 
ever created by the ruinous process of vigorous military balancing? 

If we truly want an East Asian Peace we must be prepared to fight 
for it with the will and the means that are normally reserved for the 
prosecution of war. And the most opportune time to launch this fight 
for the East Asian Peace is now, when tensions are at their ebb, when 
nations are relaxed, indeed when peace is already there. 

It is under these propitious circumstances that the foundations of 
an enduring, warm and cooperative peace must be built and buttressed. 

The conditions in Southeast Asia in the mid-1960s when the 
members of Asean launched their historic act of regional statesman- 
ship were much less propitious than are the conditions prevailing in 
East Asia today. I believe that it is time for East Asia to launch a similar 
act of regional statesmanship. 

The East Asian Peace must allow for the constructive contribution 
of all the states of this region. An outside deterrent is not only not nec- 
essary but can run counter to the objective. The East Asian Prosperity 
must similarly allow for the constructive contribution of all states, big 
and small, for all Asian states have shown a capacity for level-headed- 
ness, irrespective of size or situation. 

East Asia must be strongly wedded to the principle of 'Open Re- 
gionalism'. This means that if we regionally cooperate amongst our- 
selves on issues of trade, the result of that cooperation must be a reduc- 




135 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




tion of the barriers not only between ourselves but also to the outside 
world. 

At the beginning of this speech, I spoke of what I thought were the 
three key components of the making of the Asian Renaissance: domes- 
tic reform and revolution, regional friendship and prosperity, and con- 
tributing to a better, more just and more productive new world order. 

Since the term *new world order* was first proclaimed, there has 
been an almost incredible attempt amongst some to banish it from our 
consciousness. They who were so enthusiastic before seem not to want 
a new world order now, I speak of a new world order because I believe 
we do need a new world order, one in which there is greater justice, 
greater mutual respect, greater egalitarianism, a stronger sense of global 
fraternity, much greater global peace and much greater global prosper- 
ity, 

Asia must rise. It must make a greater contribution to the global 
commonwealth of man. It must contribute to greater justice in the 
world, to greater mutual respect in the world, to greater egalitarianism 
in the world, to greater fraternity in the world, to much greater peace in 
the world and to much greater prosperity in the world. 

In order to do this, Asia must put its own house in order. Asia must 
empower itself Asia must be worthy of leadership. And Asia must rise 
to the challenge of contribution, 

You may have noticed that at the very start, I set a 2020 time hori- 
zon. I will not be there to see the day. But I hope that by then enough 
will have been achieved that we can see the glimmer of the Asian Ren- 
aissance of which I spoke. 

Many have spent a great deal of their time throwing cold water on 
the very idea that Asia is on the rise and that a resurgent Asia will see 
the return of history — to the days when Asia contributed its fair share 
to modernity and to human civilisation. 

We have heard ad nauseam the reasons why we are all destined for 
the dustbin of history. For too many years, the Asia-sceptics were right. 
What is worse, for too many years, we deserved to go down the drain. 

But for more than a generation now, the Asia-sceptics have been 
proved wrong. 

Cold water has its uses. It is necessary for those of us whose heads 
are inordinately large. But in this phase of history, we have confounded 



136 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



the Asia-sceptics. May we continue to confound them and their cyni 



cism. 



May we have the wisdom to avoid the pitfalls, may we have the te- 
nacity to sustain our development and may we have the will to face all 
the challenges and the stamina to complete the journey towards the 
Asian Renaissance. 





14 







VALUE 






THERE is a sincere belief amongst many in the West that their values 
and beliefs are universal, that is, universally valued and believed in by 
all civilised men and women everywhere* There is also the belief that 
the advocates and champions of Asian values are merely seeking to jus- 
tify oppression, dictatorship and uncivilised behaviour. 

I happen to believe that there is a large common ground of values 
which people everywhere share. However, I also believe that there are 
natural differences in value systems and beliefs. However offensive or 
outrageous the idea may be that others elsewhere do deeply believe in 
different things, and that these beliefs, values and ways of doing things 
may possibly be better, more productive and even more civilised than 
one's own, one should at least be prepared to accept this possibility. 

Here is part of the problem. For centuries, many of us in Asia be- 
lieved that our values and ways were second best. But today, Asians 
have discovered that Asian ways and values are not inferior simply be- 
cause they are Asian, and are often superior despite the fact that they 
are Asian. Why must we change ourselves to suit the West and their 
values? Why are so many in the West insisting that we become just like, 
them? 

The ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, at the end of his history 
of the Peloponnesian wars, came to the conclusion that in the affairs of 



A speech delivered at the 29th International General Meeting of the Pacific 
Basin Economic Coundl (PBEC) in Washington, DC, United States, on May 
21, 1996 

139 







MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



nations, the strong will demand what they will and the weak will yield 
to what they must. But much of Asia will no longer yield. For much of 
Asia is no longer weak, whether in material or mental terms. Much of 
Asia will resist. Some will talk back* And we will do so because we have 
thrown off the shackles of mental servitude. 

What then are some of these Asian values that have now become 
the subject of much vigorous debate? 

Asia is, of course, a huge continent, like America is a huge country. 
For every generalisation about Asia or America that is made, excep- 
tions can be found. And yet, there is a body of common values and be- 
liefe that most of us in Asia hold on to in order to guide us in our way in 
the world that can be called Asian* just as there is a body of common 
values and ways that can be called American'. 

David Hitchcock, a former Director of East Asian and Pacific Af- 
fairs of the United States Information Agency, has actually undertaken 
a quantitative survey comparing East Asian and American values. In 
1994, Hitchcock asked Americans and East Asians Japanese, Thais, 
Chinese, Koreans, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians and Filipi- 
nos) to choose six 'societal values' and five 'personal values* which they 
regard as central in their lives. The results were presented in a publica- 
tion called Asian Values and the United States: How Much Conflict?. 

Hitchcock's survey found that the six societal values most valued 
or prominent amongst the East Asians polled were: first, having an or- 
derly society; second, societal harmony; third, ensuring the account- 
ability of public officials; fourth, being open to new ideas; fifth, fi-eedom 
of expression; and sixth, respect for authority. On the other hand, the 
six most important societal values for the Americans polled were: first, 
freedom of expression; second, the rights of the individual; third, per- 
sonal fireedom; fourth, open debate; fifth, thinking for oneself (all of 
which did not figure amongst the most critical concerns of East 
Asians) ; and sixth, the accountability of public officials. Interestingly, 
slightly more East Asians than Americans emphasised the importance 
of new ideas and public accountability. The fact that Asians chose or- 
der, harmony and respect for authority whereas Americans placed 
more value on the rights of the individual and open debate should 
come as no surprise to many. 



140 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Despite Hitchcock's interest in discovering commonalities be- 
tween East Asians and Americans, he found fundamental differences 
not only with societal values, but also with regard to personal values. 
The five most important personal values stressed by Americans were: 




first, self-reliance; second, personal achievement; third, hard work; 
fourth, achieving success in life; and fifth, helping others. While the 
sixth most important personal value — 'fulfilling obligations to oth- 
— was chosen by 39 per cent of East Asians, only 19 per cent of 
Americans emphasised this. Onthe other hand, whereas 59 per cent of 
Americans stressed ^achieving success in life', only half as many East 
Asians did so. And whereas 59 per cent of Americans stressed "personal 
achievement', only 33 per cent of East Asians did so. 

A few equally telling comparisons firom the survey are obvious: 
while 69 per cent of East Asians emphasised * respect for learning*, only 
15 per cent of Americans did so. While 48 per cent of East Asians 
stressed *self-discipline', that option was chosen by only 22 per cent of 
Americans. 

It is, of course, impossible to determine just how accurately this 
American study reflects reality. Hitchcock's data does, however, pro- 
vide results that seem in tune with the intuitive assumptions of most 
East Asians and outsiders who really know and understand East Asia. I 
do recognise the fact that many of the Asian values so reverently de- 
claimed by many Asians are often more honoured in their breach than 
in their practice. Some of the Asian values obviously mirror our stage of 
development and in the future they may be challenged or even dis- 
carded — ^whether for better or worse — as Asia moves forward again. 

Another beguiling observation one draws from Hitchcock's survey 
is that many of the values that are now regarded as Asian' were once 
also Western values; indeed, they are still bedrock values for that large 
and influential group of Americans called the Christian right. Many of 
these values, such as respect for authority, family, social order and self- 
discipline, could also be called 'Victorian* values, beliefs which the West 
had discarded or lost through the passage of years. 

I hope that my comments on Asian values so for have not, by any 
stretch of the imagination, been interpreted to suggest that they justify 
or advocate dictatorship, authoritarianism, anti-democratic practices, 
the suppression of human rights, the denial of democracy, torture, the 
exploitation of child laboui; die suppression of women, or the wanton 

141 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




destruction of the environment. Having offended the universalists, the 
most militant of whom are congregated in the West, pennit me now to 
offend the authoritarians, many of whom-are congregated in the East. 

The first thing that might be said is that atrocity and oppression, 
wherever and whenever they are practised or perpetrated, simply can- 
not be condoned or tolerated and should not go unpunished. Hiding 
behind the cloak of cultural relativism is morally repugnant when deal' 
ing with matters as grave as these. Basic human, or rather humane, val- 
ues should always be observed, whether now or in the future, in Asia as 
well as everywhere else. 

Second, some Asian values should obviously be unlearned. God 
only knows how hard we have struggled against so many of these harm- 
ful values in the past. Many parts of Asia are plagued by excessive mate- 
rialism while other parts suffer from excessive anti-materialism. There 
is, of course, extreme spiritualism too; spiritualism carried to the ex- 
treme, paradoxically, usually manifests itself in the most unspiritual of 
ways, either through violence or the oppression of certain groups in so- 
ciety. 

And there is its opposite, too. While some Asian societies espouse 
the ethic of fatalism, others admire domination, contentment, smug- 
ness, and even arrogance. In many parts of Asia, we still find inequality, 
the repression of women and the weak, and the exploitation of children 
in hard physical laboui; There are uncaring societies in Asia without an 
iota of love and respect for God's living creatures, for the infirm, the dis- 
advantaged, the handicapped and the physical environment. Though 
much of these is a result of ignorance and poverty, some may be due to 
greed and an uncaring attitude. There is also much adherence to super- 
stition and magic, and, in many places, -widespread corruption and its 
tolerance thereof. 

A third point is equally obvious: Asian values are neither inher- 
ently good nor bad; if Asian* does not necessarily mean *good' exclu- 
sively, 'Western' does not necessarily mean 'bad' exclusively either. Asia 
obviously has much to learn, both from its own process of development 
and economic struggles, and from the West. There are some worthy 
Western values which we may adopt or internalise more deeply in the 
future. 




142 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




I remember my country's own history, that we had to do a lot of 
persuading before the British, the erstwhile advocates of democracy, 
granted us the right to have elections and to vote. It was we Malaysians 
who were denied democracy and many of our human rights. In the end, 

they relented and retreated. But democracy came very much later in 
Hongkong even though the British advocated democracy in all their 
former colonies. The excuse that Hongkong is to revert to Chinese 
authoritarian colonial rule in mid- 1997 has been abominable. 

When Malaya became independent in 1957, our per-capita in- 
come was lower than that of Haiti. Haiti did not take the path of de- 
mocracy. We did. Today, Haiti is the poorest country in all of the 
Americas. We now have a standard of living higher than any major 
economy in the Americas, save only for the United States and Canada, 
We could not have achieved what we have without democracy. We 
could not have done what we have without the free market. But those 
who think that democracy and the free market means prosperity 
should think again. Though democracy and the free market are more 
likely to result in prosperity, they do not guarantee it. There are other 
things needed, too. 

So, my fourth point is that we in Asia must fight for and be the 
champion of democracy, the market system and respect for human 
rights for all. ^'e must because our value system says that this is the 
moral cause. And it can be the most productive course for our future. 

Let me make a fifth point with equal passion. Not all forms of de- 
mocracy are productive. There is good and productive democracy as 
well as bad and destructive democracy. Democratic freedom must go 
hand in hand with democratic responsibility. There are good and pro- 
ductive market systems and bad market systems. There are good and 
productive means for achieving advancement in the dignity and cir- 
cumstances of our people as well as well-meaning but romantic, silly 
and unproductive nonsense. 

Each society must be allowed to find its own best forms and proc- 
esses. Let Americans not forget that between July 4, 1776 and the Civil 
Rights Act of 1964, there were almost two centuries of political devel- 
opments and a civil wan 

Ideas and actions are great not because they are romanric or fiiH of 
bravado but because they are productive of human welfiare, productive 




143 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



not only Immediately but also in the long temx. There is need to be feir 
and not to demonise those in less than ideal circumstances. Unfortu- 
nately, many who pass judgement do not have the time to even master 
the basics, what more the complications. 

I have said enough on Asian values and the Asian values debate to 
offend both sides of the great divide. Let me now touch on mutual re- 
spect enrichment. 

Before I insist that the West must have more respect for other val- 
ues and other cultures, let me concede that we outside the West also 
need a balanced perspective of the West. If it was ridiculous for so many 
members of our elite to once believe that everything that was good was 
in the West and that everything that was in the West was good, it is 
equally ridiculous to believe now that everything that is bad is in the 
West and everything that is in the West is bad. 

Mutual regard is simply tliat: mutual regard. There is much in the 
West that commands respect. At the same time, it is right and timely 
that Asia, too, is accorded the regard and respect that is its due. 

Mutual respect demands an acceptance that those who have a dif- 
ferent view are not necessarily misguided or evil. Mutual respect de- 
mands a minimum level of humility on all sides. The countries of the 
West have a right to their preferences. But they have no right to ram 
their preferences down everyone's throats. They have the right to re- 
sort fully to the power of persuasion, but they have no right to resort to 
the persuasion achieved by power. 

In many Western societies, there are massive problems of drug ad- 
diction. There are instances where teachers are afraid of their pupils. 
There is chronic vandalism. In some of these societies, there are more 
illegitimate babies than legitimate ones. There are countries where 
large numbers in their thirties or even forties have never worked a sin- 
gle day of their lives. There are places where an unemployed person is 
better off not working. There are some democracies where political 
leaders are afraid to do what they know is right, for one reason or an- 
other. And the.people and their leaders live in fear, fear of the free me- 
dia which they so loudly proclaim as inviolable. Indeed, they are quite 
literally oppressed by their own media, the way people in feudal socie- 
ties are oppressed by their rulers, knowing their unfortunate situation 



144 





POLITICS. DEMCX:RACY and the new ASIA 



but not daring to raise their voices against an established institution to 
curb its excesses. 

Many Asian leaders, in their moments of levity, I hasten to add, be- 
lieve that they have the answers to such problems- If some European 
countries want their help and advice, I have said, "I am sure they would 
be willing to give such help and advice." But so fei; it has not entered 
the mind of any Asian leader to threaten sanctions if any Western 
country fails to put its house in order. No Asian parliament I am aware 
of has passed a single resolution calling on its government to take steps 
should a European country not reform itseE If any Asian leader were to 
threaten or if any Asian parliament were to so act, the West would re- 
gard them as mad. The West would regard the whole idea as preposter- 



ous. 




If it is preposterous for Asian leaders to threaten sanctions when 
Europeans fail to measure up to their standards and norms, would it not 
be a little preposterous for Europeans to threaten sanctions when de- 
cent Asian societies prefer their own standards and norms and not 
Europe's? 

To this and many other questions which I have asked, I did not get 
a response. All I received was public admonition. Although what I said 
about Europe might be true, the rebuttal was that what I said was 'unac- 
ceptable*. Not 'unwise*, not 'injudicious*, but 'unacceptable' — unac- 
ceptable that I should have publicly mentioned some of the ills found in 
Europe, Later, a European press correspondent asked me if I thought 
that the European participants who attended the forum [World Eco- 
nomic Forum in Singapore on October 13, 1994] where I made these 
remarks had come to be lectured to by me. The free press, which lec- 
tures all the time to the world, obviously did not think I have a right to 
free speech. 

The famous political scientist, Samuel E Huntington, ended his 
controversial essay, "The Clash of Civilizations?*' (1993), with a half- 
hearted call for civilisations to coexist. I call not for coexistence, but for 
mutual cultural enrichment. 

We in Asia have learned a great deal from the West. We will be un- 
necessarily constraining our full potential if this process were now 
stopped. At the same time, we have to learn a great deal also from 'the 
East*, from the rest of Asia, from Africa and Latin America, and from 



145 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



5t that our own histories and cultures have to offer. I believe that 
America, too, may find some value in this message of enriching 
then of mutual enrichment, of rejuvenation and of self-discov- 



ery, 



Asian values are Asian values; American values are American val 



twain 



some understanding and appreciation of the wisdom of each, and 
hopefully a wedding of the good and rejection of what is bad or evil. 

Let us all admit that no one has a monopoly on wisdom. Let us de- 
liberately prepare for and enthusiastically partake of a feast of civilisa- 
tions, where we each take the best that all of us have to offer, and to- 
gether build for the first time a single global civilisation such as the 
world has never seen. 




15 



TOWARD 



TABL 




A 





ASIA 




IN MY VIE^ Asia has already achieved a remarkable level of stability. 
There are many wars in the world today. There are none in East Asia. 
There are few in Asia, where half of mankind live. To be sure, there is 
no cause for complacency, no reason for resting on laurels, Asia's pre- 
sent stability has clear lines of fragility. There are serious flaws. Some of 
the foundations consist of less than steel and concrete. The stability is 
often shaky. The strategic situation in Northeast Asia is more problem- 
atic than the strategic environment in Southeast Asia. It portends 
some serious problems which will need to be grappled with. There is no 
excuse for *triumphalism\ for trumpeting our accomplishments. We 
must be humble and modest, remembering that pride almost always 
comes before a fall. 

At the same time, it has to be recognised that not for one hundred 
and fifty years has Asia been so stable. We have not seen such tranquil- 
lity for a century and a half Today, the guns are almost-stilled, in every 
nook and comer of East Asia, No shots are being fired across borders. 
All this is not to be easily dismissed because in the last fifty years we 
have been by for the most turbulent region of the world. 

Almost every country has gone through a civil war, insurgency or 
domestic turbulence of the most devastating and serious kind. Millions 
upon millions have died. The greatest wars of the post-World War II pe- 
riod—the Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam War— (1954^75) 
have been fought in our region of East Asia. 

A paper delivered at the Nihon Kefeai Slumbun International Conference on 
"The Future of Asia" in Tokyo, Japan, on May 17, 1996 

147 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



There are no two ways about it: we have achieved a great deal. We 
have for the most part achieved a stable Asia. The task now is to greatly 
fortify and strengthen that stability. 

To do this, I believe three things are absolutely critical: first, we 
must establish a warm, cooperative and enduririg peace between the 
nations of our East Asian village; second, we must ensure a community 
of prosperity and economic dynamism in our region; and third, we must 
ensure social justice at home, in all our societies. 

There are other important things to do, of course. But I believe 
these are the three central challenges that confront us in the decades to 
come. 

Let me begin by elaborating on the first challenge; the challenge of 
establishing a warm, cooperative and enduring peace. 

We have to be sensitive to the feet that peace is not the mere ab' 
sence of war At one end of the war-peace continuum, there is total war. 
At the other end, there is total peace. Fortunately for mankind, we 
have never seen total war. Unfortunately for mankind, we have never 
achieved total peace. In between, there is hot and violent war, cold war, 
cold peace and warm and cooperative peace. The practical task for 
statesmanship always is to ensure that we do not slip down the slippery 
road towards conflict. The practical task of statesmanship is to try to 
walk up the difificult road towards a better and more enduring peace. 

We have virtually succeeded in banishing war from East Asia. The 
Cold War has been laid to rest, although some of the vestiges remain. 
We must not now be prepared to accept a cold peace in East Asia. We 
must aim for a warm and cooperative peace, characterised by friend- 
ship, understanding, trust and goodwill between us all. Such a peace is 
essential for the Asian Renaissance that we must seek to foster; Only 
such a peace can be durable and enduring. 

We have to appreciate that for understandable reasons ofrecdpolidk 
many may not have such an interest or such an aim. Many even in East 
Asia may not want such a warm and cooperative peace, because they 
have scores to setde, axes to grind, vested interests to protect, other ob- 
jectives to pursue. But it is up to us who believe in an East Asian village 
of friendship, understanding, trust and goodwill to act to turn the 
wishes that we carry in our heart into concrete reality on the ground. 




148 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




In order to do this, we do not have to he all idealism and no realism. 
Indeed, wc have to he utterly realistic^ We must not be soft-headed and 
foolish. Indeed, we can afford neither. We cannot afford to rely on hope 
and gtx)d fortune. Indeed, we must make all the luck and good fortune 
that wc need. We do not have to disarm. Indeed, all of us must he suffi- 
ciently equipped militarily to ensure sufficient defence. For some, this 
must mean a military build-up. For others, this must mean a military 
draw-down. 

Tlie ancient Romans had a saying: Si vis pacem para beUum. If you 
want peace, prepare for war. I am afraid that if we prepare for war, war is 
what we are likely to get. Fortunately for us in East Asia, we do not have 
to prepare for war. There is no necessity. And if we did, we would be be- 
traying our promise and our fliture. Wtiat we must do is to fight for the 
peace that we want. 

In my view, to build our East Asian Peace on the basis of a balance 
of military power is not possible. It is not advisable. And it is not pro- 
ductive of the warm, cooperative and enduring peace we must work for. 

The reason it is not possible is because most of us cannot afford the 
enormous expense that would be involved. Can we all build military 
machines that can balance the military capabilities of China? Who can 
match the military might of the United States, which today is clearly a 
military power of East Asia? How does South Korea act to militarily bal- 
ance Japan? Does Thailand act to militarily balance Vietnam? Does 
Cambodia act to militarily balance China? Does Brunei act to militarily 
balance Indonesia? 

Whatever for? I can see all the manufacturers of weapons rubbing 
their hands with glee at the very thought. How wonderful. What a mar- 
velous scenario. Forget the military balance. Imagine the balance 
sheets. 

I can bear die response of the undeterred Balance of Power enthu- 
siasts: if no single nation can create a Balance of Power on its own, cre- 
ate alliances. But who will agree to create alliances against China? Who 
will agree to create alliances against the United States? Who will agree 
to create alliances against Japan? Who will do so against Indonesia? 

There is an even stronger argument against the traditional Balance 
of Power approach; it is silly. What purpose is served in everyone bal- 



ancing everyone else? What are the psychological costs in terms of sus 




149 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



picion and the erosion of trust and confidence when we start to arm to 



deal with each other and against everyone? As I have said before, if we 
treat nations as if they are the enemy of tomorrow, they will rapidly be 
the enemy of today. If we act today to deal with tomorrow's imagined 



threat, what is imagined will become a reality — ^before tomorrow 
comes. We will be amazed how fest a potential threat will become a real 
threat. 

Is real peace ever created by this ruinous process of military balanc- 
ing? If everything works, and we have great success, what we will 
achieve is bankrupt economies, impoverished societies and a barren 
and cold peace. Why should we settle for a barren and cold peace? Es- 
pecially when there is a historic opportunity to put history behind uis 
and to build a warm and cooperative peace. To live in the company and 
in the comfort of good neighbours. 

I believe that if we want true peace, we must be prepared to fight 
for true peace with all the determination, creativity and tenacity that 
we normally reserve for the prosecution of devastating war. I also be- 
lieve that the most opportune time for making peace is when peace is 
least needed, when tensions are low, when all nations are relaxed. It is 
in such circumstances that peace can move forward. We must make 
hay when the sun is shining for when the storm clouds are in the sky it is 
too difficult. And when it has started to poui; it is too late. 

We in East Asia must move now. And we must be dogged in our 
determination* 

The best way forward in creating the enduring, warm and coopera- 
tive peace we want is to advance on all fronts. We must act unilaterally, 
wherever possible, to reduce tension, to solve conflicts, to generate 
confidence. Let us not forget the old Arabian saying that the whole 
road is clean if everyone sweeps the front of his house. 

Second, we must act bilaterally, trilaterally and multilaterally to 
make peace and frieridship. The whole 'region of East Asia will be at 
peace if we are a neighbourhood of good friends. 

I believe that these pi'bc^sses should be aided and abetted by a re- 
gional process, especially if the regional process will contribute not only 
to peace but also to empowerment and economic prosperity. 

I am not certain whether the EEC process in Europe has truly 
served the economic interests of Westem Eur 




150 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



whatsoever that it has served its primary purpose: the purpose of mak 
ing peace and friendship between enemies who had twice this centur 
given this globe two *world wars'. We do not have to follow the foot 

steps of Eurooe. We cannot. It is not feasible. Rut we ran fnllnv 




Europe's example. 

And we can also be guided by 



Asia 



As political 
t thev had li 



of regional 



fet 



the Spanish and then the Americans. Only Thailand had not been col- 
onised, although it too had been bullied. They were as strangers for they 
did not know each other, although they knew in great detail about fara- 
way matters in Europe. The European prejudices of their imperial mas- 
ters towards others in Europe were carried over and replicated in the 
East, in their attitudes towards each other. 

In the early 1960s, there were great tensions between many of 
them. Tliere was a low intensity war, called Confrontation, launched by 
Indonesia against Malaysia and Singapore. One great nation, Indone- 
sia, was bigger in relation to its other Asean members than China is in 
relation to the rest of East Asia. 

In an act of regional statesmanship, the ftve countries of Southeast 
Asia decided to act to put an end to their suspicions, their fears, and 
their animosities. They decided that difficult though it was, it was time 
to act, to try to become friends. They congregated in Bangkok and 
formed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). 

Asean is now an association of seven nations (with the inclusion of 
Brunei in 1984 and Vietnam in 1995). Before the end of this century, 
Asean looks set to be an association of 10, with the membership of 
Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. 

What is critically important, Asean is now a zone of true peace, a 
community of warm, cooperative and enduring peace. 

The journey was far from short. The path was not easy. But we all 
persevered. The outcome has been priceless. 

It is because of Asean that we were not pressured into becoming 
falling dominoes after the fall of Saigon. It is because of our resolute 



151 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Stand on Cambodia that we laid down the law' and have finnly estab 
lished the mles of peaceful conduct and good citizenship in Southeas 
Asia. And it is because of Asean that our collective voice is heard. As 
ean was the European counterpart organisation in Asia for the Asia 
Europe Summit in Bangkok two months ago. Asean is at the core of th< 
Asean Regional Forum. 

No model can be completely replicated. Nor should any model b< 



But models show what 



When 



po 



liceman, because all would try to behave in a manner befitting good 
neighbours, the conditions in the region in 1967 were less propitious 



an East Asian 
East Asia on tl 



East Asia today. I believe it is now time 



This 



or old. It does not mean neglecting our military preparedness. It does 
not mean abandoning the positive things that are already in place and 



between 



ened* 

But it does mean that the journey of a thousand miles must begin. 
And it must begin with all of us meeting and talking to each other, at 
the very highest levels, for the first time in human history, on the basis 
of equality and mutual respect, with courage in our hearts and fi'iend^ 
ship on our minds. 

I believe I have said more than enough on the first challenge to 
Asian stability. Let me now say a few words on the second challenge: 
the challenge of creating a region of cooperative prosperity and eco- 
nomic dynamism. 

Again, the emphasis on the unilateral, what each nation can do for 
itself is central. Despite all the talk of borderless economies and globali- 
sation, economic dynamism and prosperity is still made at home, within 
each state, within each economy. We must continue to put economics 
in command. We must continue to pursue productive policies that pro- 
pel our people to hard work and sometimes, to almost superhuman 
feats. 



152 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




One of the greatest dangers that threaten global prosperity is the 
rise of the New Mercantilism and the New Protectionism, motivated 
by beggar-thy-neighbour policies. We must continue with our half con- 
scious, half unconscious policy of 'prosper-thy-neighbour' which has 
done so much good for all of us in East Asia. Again, we must not forget 
the bilateral, the trilateral, the multilateral contributions to the crea- 
tion of a community of cooperative prosperity. 

And of course, we should not neglect what has to be done at the 
global level (in the WTO and elsewhere) , at the subregional level (in 
Asean), at the super-regional level (in APEC) and at the transconti- 
nental level (in ASEM) . We must also not neglect the regional, what 
we should try to do together in East Asia, 

Again, the first step must begin with us meeting and talking to- 
gether over a host of issues. I have long argued that it is time for East 
Asia to meet to discuss not only peace and friendship but also their 
common prosperity and their collective economic dynamism. I have 
been greatly encouraged by the process that is already in train. 

In July 1994, Foreign Ministers of Asean plus China, Japan and 
South Korea met at the Asean Post-Ministerial Conference in Bang- 
kok. 

In July 1995, Foreign Ministers of Asean plus China, Japan and 
South Korea met at the Asean Post-Ministerial Conference in Brunei. 

In February, the Foreign Ministers of Asean plus China, Japan and 
South Korea met to plan the first Asia-Europe Heads of State Meeting. 

I am quite confident that this coming July in Indonesia, the Foreign 
Ministers of Asean plus China, Japan and South Korea will meet again. 

It is the most natural thing to do. Indeed, it would be somewhat 
unnatural if they did not in fact meet. 

Asean's economic ministers have also had regular meetings with 
Japan's Minister of International Trade and Industry. Indeed, a Work- 
ing Group on Economic Cooperation in Indochina and Myanmar was 
established in September 1994. 

In Osaka in November 1995, Asean economic ministers met 
jointly with economic ministers fi:om China, Japan and South forea for 
the first time. 




153 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Our officials are in constant consultations of course. At the Asean 
Summit in Bangkok recently, Thailand proposed that Malaysia organ- 
ise the first meeting involving Asean, China, Japan and South Korea 
for the cooperative development of the greater Mekong basin. Singa- 
pore Prime Minister Goh Chok long, in his opening address, proposed 




that at the coming informal Asean Leader's Summit to be held in 
Jakarta in December this year, the leaders of China, Japan and South 
Korea also be invited for a meeting. 

Let me confess that when I look back at the history of the EAEG 
and the EAEC I am reminded of Shakespeare's words from Romeo and 
Juliet: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name 
would smell as sweet." 

Let me now come to the third central challenge of Asian stability: 
the challenge of ensuring social justice at home. The key elements of 
this challenge may differ in part as between one country and another. 
The challenges are too many to even enumerate. They range from en- 
suring fair and equitable income distribution, the eradication of pov- 
erty, sound judicial systems and the rule of law to the development of 
political systems, including the necessity of democratic patterns of gov- 
ernance, fair and popular participation in the economy as well as the 
participation of all in the political, social and cultural system. 

Clearly enough, however well we do at the international and re- 
gional level, in creating a good global village and a prosperous and 
friendly neighbourhood, we must never forget that true stability begins 
at home, what we each do in our own houses. 



We 



We have done titanic 



We 



ing our successes and in building upon these great successes. Tlie prob- 
lems of success can be as formidable as the problems of failures, al- 
though I must confess I would always be happier dealing with the prob- 
lems of enormous success than dealing with the problems of enormous 
failure. 



Unfortunately 




Asia 



There 



East Asia. There 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



entire East Asian 'miracle', a word we never used because it seems to 
suggest that our accomplishments were done through magic, rather 
than the hard work, the blood, the toil and the tears of our people. 

Cold water has its uses. It is particularly usefiil for those of us whose 
heads are too big for their bodies. 

At the same time, let us not be cornered into pessimism, into de- 
pendence and into a loss of confidence- We have every reason to be 
confident. Japan, like the rest of us, has every reason for confidence. 

Let us move forward together. Armed with hopes for the future, 
fortified by the desire to work together — to build a great East Asian 
home for the peoples of East Asia, one that will be productive of our in- 
terests and of the interests of all mankind. 

And with that we would have brought peace and stability to half of 
Asia. We can then focus on the rest and god willing the whole of Asia 
would be stable and prosperous* 





16 













ESTABLISHMENT 




about Asia 



Wellington signi 



Zealand and the New Zealanders to relate to their northern neijgh 
hours. This is a welcome change for New Zealand cannot always regarc 
itself as a part of Europe, a distant outpost of Europe. In the past, Nev 
Zealanders bypassed Asia on their way to Europe, Britain in particulai 
Trade was also with Europe for Asians preferred cotton to the wool tha 
you produce, eat rice rather than wheat, ghee rather than butter an( 



Asian 



forbidden. 



produce. Migration and settlement by Asians 



But the past have now passed. Market configurations and trade 
patterns have changed. Europe now produced all the food it used to im- 
port from the Antipodes. Politically it has ceased to consider ethnicity 
as a basis for distant relationship. Geographical proximity and regions 
have displaced historical links. Even the Commonwealth has lost its 
place in the British scheme of things. 

On the other hand, Asia and in particular East Asia has emerged as 
a dynamic region. The people of East Asia have not only become more 
affluent but their ways of life have changed. They have developed a 
taste for butter and cheese, bread and wine, oysters and steaks. Wool in 
greater and lesser quantities have become the preferred material for 

A paper delivered at the Official Opening of the New Zealand-Asia Institute, 
University of Auckland, New Zealand, on March 28, 1996 

157 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



clothing, blended with synthetic fibres of course. Their burgeoning in- 
dustries need the coal and iron ore from this part of the world. And 
their airlines fly them for holidays in the South, where they have bought 
property, resorts and other businesses. 

It is perhaps necessary for New Zealand to take note and adjust* 
Perceptions of Asia need to be changed and a new relationship needs to 
be developed. An Institute such as this should serve a useful purpose 
and should help in enlightening New Zealand about Asia and bring 
New Zealanders and Asians together in a more congenial atmosphere. 
We believe that New Zealanders should find no difficulty in adjusting. 
The culture of New Zealanders should facilitate this, for New Zealan- 
ders are naturally friendly and hospitable. Although the Maoris may 
have very good reasons not to be happy with their lot, but at least they 
are still around. In some countries indigenous people have been wiped 
out, deliberately or otherwise by the new settlers. It is a measure of the 
tolerance of New Zealanders that there are Maoris today to demand 
their rights and indeed to be accorded some of this. 

It should therefore be easy for New Zealanders to adjust to the new 
realities about Asia. 

Asia, of course, is not homogeneous as Europe is homogeneous. 
Asians are Asians not because of ethnicity but because they belong to a 




Otherwise 



being 



language 



:ans 



identify with 



:ans 




Historical evidence shows that the earliest civilisarions were found 
in Asia. Certainly European- civilisation owes much to the spread of 
Christianity, one of the three major monotheistic religions originating 
in Asia. The Mediterranean civilisation may antedate Christianity but 
when Asia already had many civilised communities, Europe was still 
very primitive. 

Looking back to past glories does not justify the present need to be 
respected and to be treated as equals. But the importance of past 
achievements lies in the fact that they can be replicated. If Asia was a 
greater civilisation than Europe once was, can it not be as advanced as 



158 




POLITICS* DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Europe now? There is nothing inherendy inferior in the Asians as there 
is nothing inherendy superior in Europeans. 

History is full of empires which emefge almost out of nowhere, 
bloom and expanded to greatness and then feded away. And in their 
places new empires and great nations moved in. For a while they 
seemed destined to hist foreven But then they too stumble, weaken and 
disintegrate. 

Some factors must be at work. And these fectors cannot be so mys- 
terious that they cannot be learnt and duplicated* Provided a correct 
analysis is made, any country or continent can apply the lessons of the 
past in order to achieve greatness or at least a reasonable semblance of 




it. 



Europe achieved greatness Bfecause Europeans were once prepared 



to work and venture forth and take risks and accept dangers. They 
sailed thousands of miles from their shores looking for trade. They did 
not set forth to build empires. But empires were thrust upon them. 
They found the countries they seek to trade with weak and broken, su- 
perstitious and gullible and ready to submit. They found that to com- 
pete amongst European nations, trading stations had to be set up which 
readily expanded into substantial territories and so into empires. 

Asian nations achieved greatness with much of the same zeal, 
though they were less concerned about trade. They set out to spread re- 
ligion and acquire territories. The Arabs, the Turks and the Mongols 
were also bent on conquest and loot. If they could stay, they occupied; if 
not they carried away the riches, the slaves and the women. They were 
adventurous, fearless and ruthless. And they built empires of varying 
durability. The Arab conquered, built great civilisations, then shrank 
and fragmented. Today Asian Arabs still occupy much of North Africa, 
the lands not of the Africans that we kjipw today but the Mediterra- 
nean peoples including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and others. 

The Persian empire ebbed and flowed, competing with Byzantium 
in the West and then with the Muslim Arabs, The Persians were not 
defeated, rather they accepted the religion of the Arabs, albeit in a dif- 
ferent form. From then on, the contest was between religions rather 
than empires. 

Then came the Turks, the nomadic peoples of Western China and 
Central Asia. They moved West across the Central Asian plains found- 




159 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



ing new nations as they went along. Their progress was unstoppable. 
Eastern Europe fell to the Ottoman Turks who had by then accepted Is- 
lam. For a long time the Ottomans came to be regarded as an Asian su- 
perpower, so powerful that Europe trembled when the Sultan of Turkey 
rattled his jewelled sword. 

In Central Asia the Turks founded great nations. Kazakhstan, 
Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Ingustia and others 
emerged, prospered through being part of the Silk Road, made scien- 



progress and off and on spawned empires led by 
Amur the Lame, otherwise known as Tammerla 



West 



But the greatest feat of Empire building amongst Asians was that of 
the Mongols. A primitive nomadic people divided into small tribes of 
herdsmen, there was nothing about the Mongols to mark them as great 
empire builders. But a single man, Temujin, a tribal leader emerged, 
fought his way to the leadership of all the Mongols, and gathering a 
huge armed cavalry force, speedily defeated Turks, Arabs, Persians, 
Russians and Eastern Europeans, to build the greatest empire in history, 
spreading from the Chinese Pacific shores to Moscow in the North and 
the Balkans in the West. Cruel and ruthless, Genghiz Khan destroyed 
everything that stood in his way, killing hundreds of thousands of the 
people he conquered, raping and ransacking their cities for booty and 
for slaves. 

But the Empire was shortlived, at least as a Mongol Empire. By the 
third generation of Genghiz's family, it had broken up, but not before 
founding great countries. China was united by Kublai Khan and re- 
mains a single nation to this day where once it was fragmented into a 
number of relatively independent provinces ruled by warlords. In India 
the Mogul Empire was founded which helped to create a single united 
India from the numerous principalities which formerly occupied the 
vast Indian subcontinent. 

Modem Turkey also owed something to the Mongols for the Mon- 
gols too accepted Islam and integrated with the people of Turkish ori- 
gin. Thus the people of Central Asia, largely Turkish seem to bear Mon- 
gol features. Many indeed look more Chinese than Indo-Europeans. 

m 

The Mongol Empire may have disintegrated and disappeared. 
Modem Mongolia is anything but the seat of an empire. But the Mon- 
gols left an indelible mark in all the countries they had conquered. 



160 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



The question that begs to be asked is — ^how did a backward, no- 
madic Asian tribe of herdsmen achieve such greatness? The answer lies 
in their logistical skill. They were the forerunners of the German 
Panzers, the highly mobile regiments which constantly surprised their 
enemies. For the Mongol equivalent of the German motorised regi^ 
ments were the fast cavalry, lightly armoured and agile. The heavily ar- 
moured Europeans on their armoured horses were unable to move 
quickly enough to escape the slash and thrust of Mongol swords. Their 
ability to shoot arrows while galloping at full speed; the orderly division 
of their army into distinct and integrated units of tens, hundreds, thou- 
sands and ten thousand with distinct lines of command, and their abil- 
ity to move vast numbers of soldiers and supplies swiftly; all these con- 
tributed to their success. Yet the question remains. How did a primitive 
nomadic race of herdsman develop such amazing military skills as to 
defeat practically everyone in their path? Such is the enigma of the 
Mongols. Surely anyone interested in nation building can leam some- 
thing from the Mongol experience. 

But Asia is more than just Turks and Mongols and Persians and Ar- 
abs. There is the 4000 year old civilisation of the Chinese, the Middle 
Kingdom, advanced in the arts and the sciences, a civilisation that 
knew technological advances when Europeans were still living in caves 
dressed in animal skins. 

Japanese civilisation is 2600 years old and that of Korea not much 
younger. Even in the Malay Archipelago there was Sri Vijaya and Maja- 
pahit, to name a few of the civilisations of the brown people. 

Why do I tell you these tales of bygone Asian empires and suc- 
cesses? It is because I believe that what people could do in the past, they 
can do again now, I would hasten to add that I don't think Asian coun- 
tries would be setting out to conquer the world once again, to build em- 
pires. I don't think that China and Japan are about or should start wars 
of conquest in order to reestablish Asian capabilities and greatness. 

Empires are not made this way now. Conquests and occupations 
are things of the past. They are destructive of your quarry or objective. 
Conquered, countries become burdens to the conquerors. And far too 
often they do not remain long as your colorues or vassals. They fight 
and drain your wealth. And finally they regain their independence, bit- 
ter and vengeful, demanding compensation for true and imagined bru- 




talities. 



161 






MAHATHIR MOHAIVIAD 



The modern empires are economic, created through trade and 



Q 



whatever form is unlikelv. And 



only be done with prosperous countries. Helping a country become 
prosperous is akin to helping yourself, for prosperous countries make 
good markets for your exports. 

Asian countries now seek to build such empires, exclusive if they 



lut usually shared with others, Asians 
Asians have now found the formula f 



nign 



They 



■ their support. They 
of the People through democratic means. 

When Dolitical stability is achieved tl 



The 



lust be educated and trained. They must be responsible 

s and their communities, avoiding strife and disruptions. They 

produce and they must market their products efficiently and com- 



petitively* They must achieve e< 
developed nations of the world. 



powerful 



others. But they will all be prosperous, will be able to throw away the 
begging bowl, the need for aid and the need to buy protection from out- 
side powers. 

The Asian countries are now well placed to achieve all these. For 
the first time all the Asian countries are independent and East Asia, in- 
cluding Southeast Asia is free from war. Peace seats comfortably on 
them and they are not idling. They are all working very hard to better 
themselves. 

Unfortunately they are not all free from Western domination. 
Western forces are still present in their countries, though by their own 
consent. But the element of domination is still there in some countries. 
They must not do what they tike. They may not even associate with 
countries in their neighbourhood which are not approved. They may 
not join any association of countries-without approval. 

But the Asian countries will soldier on. They will secure their inde- 
pendence and go on to achieve greater economic strength. They will 



162 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



eventually achieve greatness. They will once again become imperial 
nations, not tenitorially speaking but economically speaking, 

Asia and the Asians will once again be world players. Their voices 
will once again be heard and respected in world affairs. They will not 
dominate the world but their place in the world order of things will be 
secured. 

The Far East, that exotic place is no more. East Asia is in the West, 
West of America that is. The Eurocentric world is finished, as much as 
the Middle Kingdom is no more. The world is round. Any part or any 
point in it can be the centre; the reference point. Everyone must reori- 
entate himself 

The people of the West Pacijfic are Asians. So when you study the 
Asians and Asia at the New Zealand Asia Institute, think of them as 
Westerners. America is in the East and Europe is the Far East. The Peo- 
ple of Asia, the Neo-Westemers have no designs on the Eastem people. 
They only want to be fairly treated, respected and accepted as the 
equals of everyone. 

If at this Institute you are conectly orientated and you have dis- 
carded previous misconceptions and the prejudices which went with 
Eurocentrism, then you will be well on the way to understanding 
Asians. And with that understanding you will be well-placed to deal 
with the new reality of a resurgent Asia. It would be good for the Asian 
neo-Westem people; it would be good for everyone. The world would 
be a better olace in every way. 





163 






17 



AN EQUAL ASIA-EUROP 



PARTN 



FOR A BETTER WORLD 





ONCE UPON A TIME, not so long ago, Asia was merely a place to be 
exploited by the Europeans. In a Eurocentric world, 'East Asia' was the 
Far East, distant, mysterious and hopeless. Yet today, we meet immedi- 
ately after the first meeting in world history between East Asia and 
Western Europe. Ten years ago, or even five years ago, this would have 
been unthinkable. Today we meet almost as equals; almost because 
some of us in Asia are still overawed by the West, We still feel colonised 
or defeated. And indeed we are justified in feeling so, for new forms of 
colonisation, including thought colonisation, have replaced physical 
occupation and the gunboat. The control of the international media by 
the West renders independent thinking impossible. 

Perhaps this is a rather strong statement to make. But then for the 
past 100 years or so European thoughts and values embodied in various 
ideologies had dominated the world. Socialism, capitalism, commu- 
nism and various mutations of these originated in Europe as a result of 
the political, economic and social problems faced by Europeans. 

But having taken root in European socieries, these ideologies were 
exported to the rest of the world, including the East. Because the impe- 
rial powers were largely capitalist firee-marketeers, resentment by the 
subject peoples or those threatened by Europeans rendered commu- 
nism and socialism, with their egalitarian principles, very attractive. On 
the other hand, the communist imperialism of the USSR tolerated no 
other ideology or system. 




A paper delivered at the Asia Business Leaders' Bangkok Dialogue in Bang 



kok, Thailand, on March 3, 1996 



165 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



And so most of the countries colonised or dominated by the capi- 
talist free -marketeers and the communist opted for or were forced to 
become socialist and communist. By the middle of the 20th century 
Western or European thoughts dominated the whole world. Even the 
religions of the world, which mostly originated from the East, had to ex- 
plain their teachings in terms of Western thoughts and ideas, about the 
equality, fraternity and liberty of the human soul. Not to conform to 
these ideas would make even religions less than acceptable to the domi- 
nant cultural values of the world. And so when it is said that Western 
control of the international media renders independent thinking al- 
most impossible, it is really not too far-fetched. 

When society accepts a certain set of values and regards these as 
universal, then to deviate would be heretical. At any given time, it is 
safer to conform than to reject or deviate. But then values change, cul- 
tures change and even ideologies change with time. Today socialism 
and communism are no longer the ideologies that anyone would fight 
and die for. Indeed they are almost totally discredited. 

We know now how socialism and communism destroyed the 
economies of prosperous nations and impoverish and even made slaves 
of the people. There was not even equality of poverty. Some socialists 
and communists were privileged and rich, while the majority lan- 
guished in poverty. The egalitarian society these ideologies promised 
never really materialised. Worse still, the citizens of socialist and com- 
munist states were almost without exception poorer than the workers 
in the capitalist free-market countries. 

And so after three-quarters of a century the people who conceived 
the socialist and communist theories and practised them decided that 
these ideologies were wrong and they should be discarded. It was all a 
big mistake. The massacres and the bmtalities perpetrated were all a 
waste. The indoctrination and the thought control had not brought 
about a worthwhile culture and value system. 

We need not discuss why the greatest communist country and the 
many socialist fellow travellers gave up their beliefs. What is important 
is that Western thinking was faulty, western intellectuals had made the 
wrong analysis of what ails their societies and had prescribed the wrong 
remedies. The cost had been high but more important is the fact that 
these Western intellectuals" were totally wrong. 




J 66 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




Now if they could be wrong at such great cost before^ can they not 
be wrong again? Can we believe that the present Western thinkers are 
absolutely right? Is it not possible that they may again be wrong, at least 
to some extent; to some degree? 

Eastern people are more concerned about spiritual things. West- 
emers are more concerned about material things. Capitalism, socialism 
and communism are all materialistic ideologies. The basic idea is that if 
you have material well-being, you must be happy. And if the material 
things are distributed equally, then all must be equally happy. 

The obsession with equality permeates all European or Western 
thinking. This is truly laudable. It is just and it is fair. But when it comes 
to certain things, it falls far short of justice or fairness. 

It is fine for everyone to be equal before the law. We can uphold 
that, although in practice the equality is far from the ideal. For example 
a rich criminal with the best lawyers can actually get away with murder 
while a poor suspect with an assigned third rate lawyer may not be able 
to prove his innocence, even though he is perfectly innocent. The 
equality is only apparent but far from being truly equal. 

But when it comes to international relations the big powers are 
more equal than the others. A poor country may have equal rights to 
apply sanction against a rich country but in fact it cannot do so. Again 
the equality is not real or meaningful. It is merely lip-service. In practice 
the poor country will always be denied equality. 

But equality is always emphasised in trade. The World Trade Or- 
ganisation (WTO) is urged to create level playing fields, Le. equal con- 
ditions for everyone in international trade and investments. If the 
weaker economies agree to open up their country to unrestricted for- 
eign investments, then they can have equally attractive conditions for 
their own investments in the rich countries. 

Thus foreign direct investments should not be conditional but be 
absolutely unrestricted. Their products should be allowed to compete 
freely in the local market against products of national companies. 
Frankly, Malaysia would not be able to go into the automobile industry 
at all but for differential tax treatment. If Malaysia does not produce its 
own cars, imagine the drain on foreign exchange as it is forced to buy 
either imported cars or cars produced locally by the powerful, techno- 



1(^7 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




logically advanced, cash^rich Japanese and Western countries. The 
deficit in the balance of payment would be honendous. 

In fact but for the right and the ability to regulate the economy in 
favour of locals in certain areas, while allowing and even providing in- 
centives for foreign investments in other areas, it is doubtful that Ma- 
laysia would be as prosperous as it is today. If the Malaysian market is 
seen as attractive today it is because of the judicious use of the regula- 
tory powers of the government to encourage locals and also to provide 
incentives for direct foreign investments. Without these powers to give 
unequal treatment, it is likely that Malaysia will become another basket 
case dependent on aid and the generosity of others. 

If a basket case is expected to accord the same treatment to itself as 
it does to the rich and the powerful, it will lose every time and all the 
time. A level playing field is fair when the contestants are of the same 
built, but it is totally unfair when midgets are pitted against giants. 

Yet at die GATT; the WTO, the ILO and other fora, the stress of 
the powerful is on unqualified equality. Workers in under-developed or 
developing countries must be given the same pay as those in developed 
countries. Vast sums of money must be expended on environmental 
protection in the developing countries as are supposedly expended in 
developed countries for this purpose. Workers should stage strikes regu- 
larly as evidence that they are firee, etc. 

Failure to do all these would result in anti-dumping measures or 
countervailing duties or just plain economic arm-twisting. It does not 
occur to the rich and the powerful that equality can also be achieved by 
their lowering their inflated wages, benefits and entitlements. 

i 

Equality is great but sometimes equal treatment results in aggra- 
vating the disparities between the parties concerned. On the other 
hand, discrimination, favoured treatment and affirmative action are 
more likely to result in equality and justice. 

A classic case of dpuble standards about equality is the treatment 
accorded to the mooted East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) . The 
EAEC is proposed as a forum for East Asian countries, developed and 
developing, to discuss mutual economic problems and to help the de- 
velopment of the less developed members. 

But some East Asian countries were actually instructed by Western 
countries, which had already formed their own trade blocs, that they 



168 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACYAND THE NEW ASIA 




should reject this forum Clearly, what is right for the Western countries 
is not right for Eastern countries. Equality is not the great principle that 
the Western countries make it out to be. Equality is only good if it re- 
sults in economic and other gairis for the West, but if it is perceived to 
be a threat to them, then equality should not be advocated* 

And so for years now the East Asian countries have not been al- 
lowed to talk to each othen Tlie East Asia-Europe meeting just held 
barely managed to get the participation of the East Asian countries as a 
loose group, though not all But already there have been indications 
that in future such meetings should include non-East Asians as well. 

Asians are often accused of being racist. But what is one to make of 
this objection against Asians talking to each other when the objectors 
themselves have done more than that, formed trade blocs, cartels and 
have in fact taken unilateral action to block specific East Asian goods 
from their markets without even giving a fair hearing? 

Freedom is another sacred cow which everyone must worship. 
Asian countries are forever being accused of not giving freedom to their 
own peoples. What about the freedom of independent Asian coun- 
tries? If they are not allowed to form their own association, then can 
they be really free? What is the difference between the Russian action 
to force the Czechoslovak Republic or Hungary to stay within the 
Communist bloc and the denial of the freedom of association of East 
Asian countries? At least, Russian imperialism has been curtailed. Can 
one say the same of other hegemonic powers? Or will double standards 
prevail with freedom as it prevails with equality? 

East Asia is set for a renaissance. The process that began with the 
Japanese economic miracle has now spread to Northeast and South- 
east Asia. The prosperity of nations should contribute to the develop- 
ment of other nations. Malaysia prospered because of Japanese invest- 
ments largely. Japan would not have invested in Malaysia and in other 
countries if it had not itself prospered. 

Today Southeast Asian countries have already begun to invest in 
other developing countries, helping them to create jobs and to develop. 
At the same time they, the Southeast Asian countries, have become 
good markets for the developed countries. Obviously, it is a win-win 
situation which beggaring your neighbour will not result in. 



J 69 




MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




It is not an accident that the Asean nations have almost unifonnly 
prospered. They have leamt from each other the right fdhnula for de- 
velopment. They have all opened up their countries to foreign direct 
investment. In Africa and Latin America where socialist ideas were 
spread, nationalisation and rejection of foreign investment have, with- 
out exception, undermined their economies. Socialistic centrally- 
planned economies are to be found in East Asia too. But Asean has 
acted as a counterbalance and today, even if communist and socialist 
ideologies are still upheld by some, the free market economy, as pursued 
by Asean, has become universally accepted. 

If the EAEC is given free rein, the free-market system will be truly 
propagated. The weaker economies in the regions will benefit. East 
Asia will prosper and will act as supplementary engines of growth for 
the rest of the world. 

The EAEC is an idea whose time has come. It can speed up the re- 
birth of East Asia. A rejuvenated East Asia practising the free-market 
system will eventually lay to rest the last vestiges of communist and so- 
cialist economic theories, if not ideologies. If indeed the Europeans and 
the North Americans believe in the free market and the associated 
democratic system, the best thing they can do is to support the forma- 
tion of the EAEC. 

Blocking it or being suspicious of it or diluting it with non-East 
Asians will only slow down the march to East Asian prosperity. It may 
cause bitterness and it will antagonise countries which really want to be 
friendly with the West. 

The East Asia Europe meeting just held is a good beginning. It will 
help dispel the unwarranted fears of a resurgent East Asia. East Asia 
wants fair trade as much as the European Union. If we difrer in our 
<Hews, it is because we are looking from our own viewpoints; from our 
own stage of development. But some discussions can help to dispel sus- 
picions on the part of both parties. 

The East Asia Europe meeting is an example of near-equality. Not 
only is the playing field level, but the contestants too are feirly evenly 
matched. No one can bully or be bullied. Only good can come from this 
dialogue. When East Asia is frilly rebom, it will not be a bitter East Asia 
wantine to cet its own back on the nations which tried to delav or nre- 




170 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



vent its renaissance. East Asia will remember who helped and will con- 
tribute when required. 

Let there be no Boston Tea Party. Let there be full or meaningful 
representation. Let there be democracy in the management of world 
trade. Let us remember that poor nations and poor regions help no one, 
not the prosperous nor the impoverished.Prosper thy neighbours and 
thou shall prosper thyself. 





171 






18 





AN ASIAN RENAI 



FOR A NEW ASIA 



ANCE 



A NEW ASIA is on the rise, and that is something only the blind and 
deaf in mind would foil to notice. Asia cannot be stopped. This New 
Asia must continue to be an achieving Asia, a continent of progress, 
bringing massive and comprehensive development to all Asians. This 
New Asia must be a contributing Asia, a continent that contributes not 
only to its constituents* advancement, but to the advancement of man- 
kind as a whole. To do both, this New Asia has to be an empowered 
Asia, a continent that is both a mover and a shaken not the object but 
the subject of international affeirs, not a consequence but a cause. 

For all these to happen, for Asia to be worthy and to have the capa- 
bility, there has to be a conscious Asian Renaissance, a rebirth that will 
remake Asia and reshape the world. So far the Asian nations have de- 
veloped separately, disparately and with no vision of the roles they 
should play for Asia and the world. While Asia must eschew the idea of 
Asian dominance, it must still insist on being an equal partner with 
Europe and the United States. It m;ust reject domination by any of 
them. 

Within 50 years, Japan has risen from die ashes of war to become 
the world's second largest and strongest economy, after the United 
States. Of late, there have been some doubts voiced about Japan's po- 
tential, but I believe that given tim^e Japan will overcome the harass- 
ments and become reinvigorated. 




A speech delivered at the New Asia Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 
January 11, 




173 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



China has emerged from civil war and civil conflict, from the 
depths of poverty and disorder to blaze a trail of dynamism seldom wit- 
nessed in the history of the world. China's modernisation is moving 
ahead at breakneck speed. 

South Korea emerged from the ravages of a bitter civil war, com- 
plete destruction of its infrastructure, and utter impoverishment 
from being a clear and hopeless "basket case" to become one of the eco- 
nomic "miracles" of the 20th century, indeed of any century. 

Taiwan has emerged as another Northeast Asian dragon. It has 
done so well that it is now saddled with the problem of how to hide its 
enormous reserves. 

In Southeast Asia, Singapore was the first Asian tiger. A few days 
ago, the OECD formally "graduated" Singapore into the ranks of the 
developed world. The republic's per-capita income is now the ninth 
highest in the world in US foreign exchange dollar terms, forget pur- 
chasing power parity. 

Indonesia, one of the largest countries in the world, in its first ten 
years grew an average of 1.5 per cent per annum, was given up as a lost 

cause by all and sundry until the mid-'1960s. Today, after 30 years of re- 
markable economic growth, it stands poised to become one of the larg- 
est economies of the world, with litde doubt about its present and fii- 
ture dynamism. 

The Western press was fond of saying that Thailand, that country 
of coups, could only survive because it was a cat with nine lives. They 
are wrong, Thailand not only survived but prospered not because it was 
a cat but because it is a tiger. 

The Philippines have not done as well as its neighbours for reasons 
that I need not go into. But watch out for this Asean tigei; one of east 
Asia's coming economic miracles. Watch out too for Vietnam, already 
growing into a tiger even before it joined Asean. It is now set for a burst 
of speed. Watch out also for the other countries of Southeast Asia. 
Watch out for India and the econorriies to our West. 

As for Malaysia, I am reminded of the feet that when we were bom 
as an independent country in 1957, most in the Western world saw us 
as a prime candidate for the dustbin of history. Let us not forget that it 
was only in I960 that we managed to catch up with the per-capita in- 
come of Haiti, the poorest economy in the Americas. Today, a genera- 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



tion latei; Malaysia has a standard of living higher than any country in 
the American hemisphere, higher than any country in South, Central 
or North America, with the exception of die United States and Can- 
ada. Today, this struggling nation of 19 million hardworking people is 
the 13th largest trading nation in the world. Tradewise, Malaysia is sub- 
stantially larger than Russia or Australia. We are one and a half times 
larger than Indonesia or Brazil. We are twice as large as South Africa or 
India. In terms of market capitalisation of out stock market, we are also 
thirteenth. To be sure, we are half the size of that of Germany. But in 
Asia we are only behind Japan, Hongkong and Taiwan. Not bad for a 
primary candidate consigned to the dustbin of history. Not bad for a 
country which so many believed had no future. 

In living the present and contemplating the future, we so often for- 
get the past. Let us not forget that even as we are today regarded as a 
region of dynamos, we were, till very recent times, regarded as a region 
of dominoes, ripe and ready to fell. Haifa century ago, every Asian econ^ 
omy, including that of Japan, was regraded as economies with little 
hope for dynamism or progress. We were all hopeless cases. We were all 
regraded, at one time or another, in the same way that Somalia or 
Ethiopia are regarded today. And what is worse, many of us believed in 
the picture that was painted of us and of our future. 

Now, there is a surprising trend to undermine all that we have ac- 
complished and to argue that even if we have done well in the past, we 
don't have much of a future. We are destined to slow down. The East 
Asian miracle is actually not a miracle. It is merely a flash in the pan. 
Whatever it is, it is finished. 

No one contests the fact that over the last generation we grew on 
average two and a half times as fast as the European countries, two and 
a half times fester than Larin America and 25 times faster than sub-Sa- 
haran Africa. The mathematical probability of all of us in the region 
growing like we have is 10,000 to one. 

I am constantly surprised by the number of greats minds from out- 
side Asia who believe that the astonishingly positive accomplishments 
that have been made in East Asia in the last half-century cannot be sus- 
tained. At the same time, there is the equally remarkable assumption 
that every failure and weakness of the last fifty years cannot but be sus- 
tained. 



175 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



In Other words, it can be assumed that we in East Asia, who have 
produced results never before achieved in world history, cannot con- 
tinue to do all the good things we have so far achieved. On the other 
hand, it can be safely assumed that all the bad things will continue. 

This belief in our infinite ability to fail and in our limited ability to 
succeed is touching. There are predictions galore. Malaysia's political 
stability, for example, cannot be sustained. It is only a surfece phe- 
nomenon. Underneath, there is turmoil, and any time now it will burst 
like a boil. Why, even the twin towers we are building are tilting and 
will soon fell over. How can they and how dare they try to be one up 
against their seniors. Some day it will happen. If it does not then just 
wait. It will happen. 

If East Asians have been good at anything, we have been good at 
confronting problems, facing challenges and surmounting obstacles. 
Very often, we have done better than others not because we are 




We 



have been pretty good 



this is utterly against the so-called accepted norms, norms formulated 
because the formulators have forgotten their past and in any way are 
not in a position to breach rfiem, having lost their colonies and their 
claims to supremacy. 

If we believe that the next great economic crusade we must launch 
must be the crusade for efficiency and productivity, riot just for human 




Til. 



It or foreign investments, I somehow su 
massive crusade for efficiency and prod 



prod 



Even as there are those who accept our undeniable economic feats 
and go on to argue that we cannot continue to succeed, there are many, 
especially amongst the controllers of the Western press, who concede 
that our strategic environment is better now than since the end of 
World War II or even since the mid- 19th century. But they go on to ar- 
gue that our peace cannot possibly last. 



As 



Korea will acquire nuclear weapons. This 
'erhaos vou will fieht on the Korean Penin- 



This 



might declare independence. China would then be forced to take mili 



n(^ 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




tary action. This was another favourite war scenario and seems to be 
hard to lay to rest despite the fact that the Taiwanese electorate re- 
cently delivered a clear verdict: they don*t want war with China; ergo, 
no playing the fool with independence. 

Besides the perennial Korean War scenario, which has always been 
utilised over the last 40 years, there are three trusty bogies. First, the 
arms acquisitions in East Asia. Second, the South China Sea. Third, 
and this can always be counted upon to be the all-purpose blockbuster, 
the "China threat". 

The naivete of the victors of the Pacific War when imposing a one 
per cent of GDP limit on Japan's arms spending reflects the belief that 
Japan would be down and out forever. Today, they know that 1 per cent 
of Japan's GDP is much more than what many European nations can 
afford to spend on arms. 

It would be obvious to everyone that as a country's economy grows, 
its expenditure on arms will also grow. The percentage of the GDP or 
whatever may remain the same, but in absolute amounts the expendi- 
ture can be very big indeed. 

The situation is not improved by the aggressive marketing of arms 
by the West. Their salesmen point out the threats that each Asian 
country faces and persuade us to buy their weapons. No sooner had we 
bought them they tell us that our potential enemy has better weapons 
and can only be countered by the new weapons their governments 
have now just allowed us to acquire. Of course, they sell to the potential 
enemy as well, probably recounting the same story; that we have ac- 
quired this deadly weapon and they should have a particular weapon 
which has just been taken off the restricted list and is now available for 
acquisition. And so it goes on, with more and more effective weapons 
being invented at massive cost and necessitating their worldwide sale 
to recover the financial ouday. 

In the meantime, the so-called Western-controlled free press re- 
ports on the arms race going on in Asia, completely ignoring the in- 
volvement of the West in the sale of these weapons. It never occurred 
to them to stop the billion-dollar researches on weapons of destruction 
going on in their own countries. 

If there is a threat, that threat is not from Asia. Asia knows that the 
threat comes from countries which are forever upgrading their capaci- 



177 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



ties to kill and destroy. All the Asian countries put together cannot 
match the US$265 billion budget for the ami forces of just one Western 
country. Who then is the enemy, one may ask? Is it any one of us in 
Asia ? Tlie regard and respect for Asia is best exemplified by their choice 
of sites for testing their nuclear weapons. And yet Asians are being told 
that they must arm against other Asians, and not against those who ob- 
viously regard Asians as enemies who must be made to appreciate the 
forces ranged against them. 

Yes, Asians are arming themselves. But they are arming commen- 
surate with the level of their economic development and to fulfill their 
legitimate security needs. They would rather not arm, but they are not 
reassured when, despite their independence, they are perpetually being 
badgered to do this and that and the other. They cannot but feel threat- 
ened when powerful Asian economies are instructed not to talk to 
some Asian countries which are mere non-entities because the leaders 
of these countries did not wear a coat and a tie when the envoy of the 
powerftil called. 

Despite the overbearing attitude of those outside Asia, Asia and 
Asians must never be conirontative. The Asian Renaissance must pre- 
sage a better world, a world free from power politics, of covert imperial- 
ism, of threats and impositions. 

I have enraged many in the past by talking of a New Asia, by envi- 
sioning an achieving Asia, I have also enraged many by envisioning an 
independent and contributing New Asia. Apparently, it is not accept- 
able that Asia has a contribution to make, that it is high time for Asia to 
stop making apologies and to rise to its feet. 

Many Asians believe that we do have values and ways of doing 
things which are, for want for a better word, "Asian". This is heresy to 
those who believe only in their own values and ways of doing things as 
being universal. Can't Asian values too form a basis for universal val- 
ues? Is is that non-Asians have a monopoly to determine what is right 
and what is wrong and Asians don't? 

When something is universal, then it must be found everywhere in 
this world, if not the universe. If it is not found in such a large chunk of 
the world as Asia constitutes, can it then be said to be universal? 

Asians do believe in human rights, in press freedom, in democracy 
and the rule of law. We do believe in the goodness of being good and the 



POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



badness of being bad- But we also care for the results. Recently, when 
the confrontation between the US government and the Republican re- 
sulted in a shutdown of the government, the first comment of an 
American media personality is that it reflect democracy. The hardships 
and the travails of some hundreds of thousands of government employ- 
ees are irrelevant as long as democracy is upheld. 

Imagine an Asian country having such a government shutdown- 
Would it be described as democratic? More likely it will be labelled as 
anarchic, as Asian incompetence, Asian politics, Asian selfishness and 
uncaring attitude. 

But the shutdown did not happen in Asia. It did not because 
Asians interpret human rights and the rule of law as being for the good 
of the majority, not the freedom for a few politicians, or for that matter 
the leaders of the perpetually disgruntled minority parties or trade un- 
ions. They can have their freedom but their right is restricted to hurting 
only themselves. If they hurt innocent bystanders then they are abusing 
their democratic rights. They must not hold society at large to ransom. 

Is this so wrong? Is caring for the majority of the people, caring for 
their welfare and indeed their freedom from the oppression of the few 
so wrong? Is it so wrong for Asians to reject the touted universalism of 
Western values and adhere to their own? Can't they claim that their 
values too should be accepted as universal? 

But, of course, Asians and Asian countries should not seek to im- 
pose on others as much as they resent having other value'S'^iinposed on 
them. Asians must prove their values, their ethics and their cultures 
have merit and benefit the community. The best way to do this is of 
course to sustain our peace, to develop our economies and to practise 
democracy pragmatically. 

The renaissance of Asia has actually been going on unnoticed. It is 
time that we make ourselves aware of it. We should come togethei; not 
to confront others, not to form a trade bloc, not to be obstreperous and 
arrogant. As much as we should not be apologetic, we should bear no 
grudges. We must only assert our democratic rights, as nations, to be 
equal and not to allow purselves to be mentally, informationally and 
diplomatically bludgeoned. We must point out that it is undemocratic 
of others to stop us from forming a talking shop like the EAEC when 
they themselves are forming protectionist trade blocs. 




179 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



This Asian Renaissance must be a psychological and cultural re- 
birth, freeing us from the bonds of mental servitude and enriching our 
arts and our cultures. It must be an economic renaissance, vigorously 
propelling our material condition of life forward whilst ensuring social 
and economic justice for all our citizens. It must be political renais- 
sance, founded upon the richest development of different forms of de- 
mocracy and the greatest respect for and nourishment of all the rights 
of the individual person in the contact of community rights in which 
the individual exists. 

This Asian Renaissance must also be a social renaissance, righting 
the wrongs of centuries, providing dignity, egalitarianism and opportu- 
nity to all regardless of gender, position, race, colour or creed. It will 
confront no one, no country, no region, no continent. 

The task will not be easy. There is bound to be opposition. The 
proxies of those opposed to the Asian Renaissance will be the tyranny 
of the Western-controlled international news media. They have a 
vested interest to see that the Asian rebirth is aborted, partly because 
bad news make money for them and partly because the West to which 
they belong feel threatened. They want the status quo because it up- 
holds their tyranny, their right to deny news which do not fit their 




mtakers everywh 



own views and to give them the role of king- 



tyrant a tyrant 



The 



adverse and damaging publ; 



undermine leaders and nations and stunt their economic and political 
health. Western journalists and in particular newscasters are used to 
having their victims cringe during interviews. They enjoy this sense of 
power. And they will not hesitate to use it to prevent the Asian Renais- 



sance. 



of Asia is going to be far from easy. But Asians 



k at it and work hard. Only success will ensure that we will be 
ted as equals and given our place on this planet. We must pursue 
Asian Rerxaissance not as a response to anyone, not as a challenge 
ny continent. We must pursue this Asian Renaissance as a response 
tie needs of our people and in devotion to our duty to our nation. 
: to do so is to betray the promise of our friture. 



180 





19 
REFORMING TH 



UNITED NATIONS 
FOR THE FUTURE 




THIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY is meeting amidst hectic schedules of 
events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. 
Some of us have become preoccupied with these celebrations. We 
should ask whether these activities are merely media events or would 
they seriously contribute to a better United Nations? Will the high 
point of the 50th anniversary be reduced to a special commemorative 
meeting condensed into a declaration of good intentions which no one 
seriously cares for, or should we resist the tendency to celebrate, to ex- 
pand millions on galas and parties and to eulogise through rhetorical 
speeches the anniversary of the United Nations' establishment? After 
all we cannot even answer the basic questions of where we stand and 
what the United Nations is, whipping boy or serious enduring player. 

Admittedly it is easy to raise questions than to find answers. But 
these questions must be raised and they deserve to be answered. On its 
50th year, the United Nations system finds itself under criticism for be- 
ing unable to handle basic and critical political, economic and social is- 
sues. Despite earlier hopes of a just world order following upon the end 
of the Cold War, what we see is still a United Nations which dances to 
the grating music of the major powers in total disregard for the high 
principles and objectives pledged at its formation. We will have to con- 
clude that the narrow national interest of the few is still what the 
United Nations is all about. Also the principle which largely move the 
major powers, that what they need for themselves must influence their 

A speech delivered at the 50th Session of the United Nations General Assem- 
bly in New York, United States, on September 29, 1995 

181 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



dealings with the needs of others, is fully operative, making nonsense of 
interdependence, social compassion and justice. 

And so we must forget the promise of an international political 
leadership that can collectively come to grips with the myriad of issues 
for a shared survival. Confrontation between states, intrastate con^ 
flicts, economic and military threats, the dehumanising effects of pov- 
erty; all these are heightened rather than diminished by the ending of 
the Cold War. The contradictory impulses of interdependence and iso- 
lationism are more evident than ever before. Humanitarianism is not 
only drying up fast; but what survives is replete with conditionalities. 
The United Nations presents a shattered image with a threadbare 
moral authority, despite the important early successes in decolonisa- 
tion and the subsequent elimination of apartheid. 

The victors of 1945 have clung tenaciously to the levers of power. 
They control the high ground, exercising influence and power as na- 
kedly as when they were colonial powers. Only the masks have 
changed. The multilateral organisations created on the eve of war's end 
were and still are structured to further their economic interests and the 
pursuit of their strategic political goals. The Security Council, the 
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have merely be- 
come the instruments of power perpetuation. Less than six months ago, 
we were witness to the use of the United Nations to push through, dra- 
conian-like, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Before the ink was 
dry, some of the nuclear powers proceeded to test their diabolicE^l weap- 
ons. What, may I ask, qualifies some countries for possession of the 
means of mass destruction in perpetuity? It is time nuclear-weapon 
states commit themselves to nuclear disarmament through a pro- 
grammed reduction of their nuclear arsenal within a specific time 
frame, beginning with the immediate cessation of all nuclear tests and 
culminating in their total elimination. Soon it may be too costly and too 
late. 

Perversely, the major powers not only continue to compete in de- 
veloping ever more destmctive conventional weapons, but they also 
compete to sell arms. And when some developing countries buy arms, 
the Western controlled media accuse them of indulging in arms races. 

We seerh to have inherited a world in which moral considerations 
have no real role to play and where acts of realpolitik have no moral con- 
sequences. Tears appear to be shed about the horrifying human trage- 



182 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



dies in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Liberia, Somalia and Chechnya, 
But many have become desensitised to the pain and horrors that flash 
across our screens day in and day out. The Charter incorporating the 
idealism and dreams of 1945 is more honoured in its violations than its 
adherence. Tell us how have the principles of the Charter on the non- 
use of force and the illegality of claiming territory acquired by aggres- 
sion been of help to the Bosnians? What protection or solace has the 
Genocide Convention been to those slaughtered in Rwanda, Bosnia, 
Cambodia and Chechnya ? The lesson for the peoples of these countries 
is clear; no international order or international ethos will be defended 
unless the major powers see their vital interests are at risk. 

The United Nations have been party to the double-talk in Bosnia, 
insisting that morality had no place in peacekeeping since the imparti- 
ality that peacekeepers had to maintain required them to eschew mak- 
ing any judgement about the rights and wrongs of the situation. I ask 
the United Nations whether there can be a middle ground where geno- 
cide and ethnic cleansing are concerned? I ask the Secretary-General 
of the United Nations whether he is obliged to defend the moral princi- 
ples in the United Nations Charter or whether he should console the 
dying and the bereaved that there are others elsewhere suffering worse 

fates? 

Isn't there, in the context of the larger picture, a special role for the 
United Nations to provide international leadership? Clearly, the major 




choosing 



They 



tinue to harp on human rights and the sanctity of human life but they 
act only when they run no risk. 

Admittedly, blame must also be apportioned to many of us in the 
Third World. Some of us have led our people down the path of despau 
and misery. With the demise of colonialism, there was the promise of 
freedom and development. Yet many succumbed to the temptations of 
creature comforts, failing to further the rights and welfere of our own 
people. But then when we were colonies, the only form of government 
we knew was authoritarian colonialism. It is too much to expect some 




democratic 



sophisticated. 
The threi 



ethnic 



183 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



massacres in Rwanda. For a long time the major powers were opposed 
to taking strong measures against the Serbs. We are seeing belatedly 
some sense of purpose in the Nato bombings and efforts to negotiate a 
solution. However, we should be cautious about rushing towards solu- 
tions that reward aggression and genocide. It is possible that some in 
the West and in the United Nations longed for Bosnia's quick defeat. It 
would save them from making any decision. But the Bosnians refused 
to oblige. In Rwanda the European troops withdrew when the massa- 
cres began. And in Somalia feilure to understand the situation led to 
the victims fighting their United Nations saviours. 

The United Nations Secretariat must take some of the blame for 
all these brutalities. In Rwanda it truly shirked its duty while in Bosnia it 
sent in a protection force which was instructed not to protect the Bos- 
nians. Why it should be called UNPROFOR was a mystery until lately. 
It was there to protect itself. It makes a distinction between peacekeep- 
ing and peace -enforcement. If there is peace to keep, why do you need 
military forces? Isn't it because of the possibility of breaches of the peace 
that the forces are put there? And when there are breaches the forces 
must stop them, if peacekeeping is to be meaningful But instead when 
peace is broken the United Nations threatened to withdraw and leave 
the victims to their fate. 

Fortunately, in Palestine, another historical flashpoint, efforts con- 
tinue to be made towards durable peace. That peace process must re- 
sult in a Palestinian homeland, a viable state at peace with its neigh- 
bours. The attempts to weaken the present Palestinian leadership by 
undermining its credibility will only result in the rise of extremism and a 
protracted and bloody intra-Palestinian conflict which will spill over 
into Israel and elsewhere. 

The absence of international leadership and commitment is evi- 
dent in the area of development as well. The rhetoric of development is 
increasingly devoid of meaningful content. The North has turned its 
back on commitments relating to development assistance. Yet such is 
the concern for the survival of insects and plant life that human devel- 
opment must be stopped if it is suspected it might endanger a few ani- 
mals or plants. That there are plenty of the same species elsewhere is 
considered irrelevant. And so one-fifth of the world's population re- 
main mired in poverty having been denied development assistance by 
the rich and the powerful. The latter have retreated into their regional 





h«w 



POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




clubs and cosy arrangements for perpetuating unconscionable levels of 
consumption. Some of the countries of the South have tried to pull 
themselves up literally by their own bootstraps. But the moment they 
appear to succeed, the carpet is pulled out from underneath their feet. 
GSP privileges are withdrawn and their records of human rights, de^ 
mocracy, etc are scrutinised in order to obstruct their progress. 

Some amongst the more successful South have been enticed to 
join the rich and the strong, so they may not lend what litrie strength 
they have to their compatriots. 

Commitment to the environment should not be turned into an oc' 
casion for recrimination and pointing of fingers. Worse, it should not be 
politically instrumentalised to disadvantage the South. Development 
can take place without irreparable damage to the environment. Forcing 
the developing countries to remain undeveloped in order to preserve 
the environment for the rich is manifestly unfair. Yet the environmental 
obstacles placed in the way of the poor South will do just that, beggar- 
ing the poor to enrich the already rich. 

Poverty in itself creates an environment that is as damaging to hu- 
manity as any other kind of environmental pollution. Obviously we 
need to determine our priorities. Do we keep the poor permanently 
poor so the rich can enjoy the environment or do we sacrifice the envi- 
ronment a little in the interest of relieving poverty? 

We, in Malaysia, accept that economic development should not be 
at the expense of other groups or the future generations. Environ- 
mental sustainability, social equity and a culture that allows for the ful- 
filment of human needs must replace the culture of materialism. The 
Western consumerist society, which is spreading worldwide requires 
ever increasing consumption to keep production and profits continu- 
ously rising. For this more fiael is needed and the trend in the consump- 
tion of fossil fiiel in recent years is alarming. Yet very little is being done 
to curb such wasteful use of a depleting resource while the development 
of renewable resources such as hydroelectric power meets with all kinds 
of objections. Progressively industrialising Malaysia has the capacity 
and the resources to design and implement a model of development 
sensitive to the needs and cultural values of developing countries with- 




out imitating the flawed Western model. We only ask that misguided 
crusaders should keep out. These modem-day imitations of the com- 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



munist agitators would do well to look at their own countries* wastefiil 
consumption and carbon-dioxide emission. 

Social disintegration is a serious problem as the world's population 
become more urbanised. This is not helped by the West seeking to im- 
pose its moral values on others. The institutions which hold society to- 
gether are now being undermined. At the Beijing Women's Summit in 
1994, despite a consensus cobbled together to alleviate the sufferings of 
women, the mad quest for personal freedom took one more tradition- 
bashing step. People, it seems, cannot be free unless they have sexual 
freedom; a freedom which rejects the inhibitions of traditional and re- 
ligious values, of marriage and family as institutions of society. Sexual 
freedom will render fidelity meaningless as much as it renders marriages 
anachronistic. The new liberalism extends to a new definition of the 
family, which is to include homosexual partnerships, unmarried 
women with children by unknown fathers, groups of men and women 
living together with no fixed partners and many other combinations. 

If the West wants to be liberal and sexually free, this is its right. But 
what is wrong is the attempt to impose its morality (or lack thereoO on 
the rest of the world. And in Beijing that was what it tried to do. The 
United Nations should not lend itself to this kind of undemocratic dis- 
regard for the rights of others. 

Of late there has been much talk about reforming the United Na- 
tions. Clearly, there is a need for this after 50 years of the United Na- 
tions carrying the tattered baggage of World War II. Surely the results of 
that war cannot be reflected in the structure and procedures of the 
United Nations forever. It has to end some time. And the 50th anniver- 
sary is as good a time as any for burying the relics of past follies. 

Since democracy seems to have displaced religion as a faith, it is fit- 
ting that there must be democratic reforms in the United Nations. 
Some of those countries which had vested themselves with iniallibility 
and permanency have now become second raters. New players have 
emerged who should be accorded recognition. A more equitable repre- 
sentation on the Security Council is a must. This means that perma- 
nent seats should be given to regions possibly determined by a regional 
mechanism. The veto power should be dropped. Under no circum- 
stances must the Security Council be made an instrument of any one 
country. 





186 




POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Reform must extend also to the financing of the United Nations. It 
is wholly unacceptable that member states, especially the richer ones, 
should fall into arrears with impunity and yet exercise special rights and 
influence. The membership rules must be applied to one and all. New 
bases for assessment should be made, taking into consideration the 
wealth or lack of it amongst the members. 

Various global taxation schemes, including modest levies on global 




air travel, a tax on global speculative flows of capital, a tax on the ex- 
ploitation of mankind's common assets on the seabed, and a tax on the 
trade in weapons of war, have been proposed. Of these, the last one, 
based on the principle that he who profits from the tools of war must 
contribute to the maintenance of peace, merit urgent attention and 
adoption. 

Reform of the United Nations also require the cleansing of the bu- 
reaucratic aegean stables in the Secretariat. The morale of the interna- 
tional civil service is at its lowest ebb. The excesses and the fat must be 
trimmed but failure to do so must not be used as an excuse for not pay- 
ing dues or for opting out. 

It is heartening to note that UNCTAD and other economic agen- 
cies of the United Nations have now acknowledged that linking trade 
with non-trade issues serves no useful purpose either for the developed 
or the developing countries. Unemployment in the developed coun- 
tries is not due to workers in developing countries working hard to 
compensate for their lack of other competitive advantages, but rather 
to the profligate ways of the developed nations with their high wages 
and unemployment benefits. Why it is assumed that workers in devel- 
oped countries would work when they are to be paid for not working is a 
mystery at par with the idea that people would be happy and productive 
if the diligent are paid as much as the indolent. 

The reform of global institutions must encompass the Bretton 
Woods organisations. Their energies and resources must be channelled 
towards the batde against the pollution caused by poverty worldwide. 
The Bretton Woods organisations have to cease acting as debt collec- 
tors for the mighty and the rich bankers, who in turn must learn to live 
within the rules of their own creation, that of taking commercial risks 
which go hand-in-hand with the pursuit of gain. A return to their origi- 
nal mandates, that of promoting balanced development in the case of 
the Wodd Bank, and that of enforcing monetary and fiscal responsibil- 

187 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




ity in all countries, irrespective of their status in the global economy, is a 
first priority. Reform must include a rc'evaluation of the governance 
arrangements at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund 
through a realignment and re^allocation of quotas and shareholdings 
that take into account the changed structure of the world economy. 



New arrangements for govemance must recognise the growing clout of 
the newly emerging economies that now contribute to a rising share of 
global output, to trade and capital flows. 

The debt millstone weighs heavily on the poor This burden must 
be eased, especially for the poorest nations of Africa. Malaysia hopes 
that effective actions will be taken forthwith taking into account deci- 
sions made at the 49th General Assembly on finding a durable solution 
to the extemal'debt problem of developing countries. 

While bilateral debts extended by donor countries have over the 
years been restructured and rescheduled — though with humiliating 
conditions imposed by the Paris Club of Creditors — ^multilateral insti- 
tutions, led by the World Bank, have steadfestly refused consideration 
of restructuring debt owed to them. The World Bank continues to in- 
crease its profit levels and amasses reserves which today stand in excess 
of US$ 1 6 billion. Why are these reserves, built from payments by devel- 
oping countries, not used for debt relief? And why do we allow the in- 
transigence of one or two countries to preclude the issuance of Special 
Dravmg Rights by the Intemational Monetary Fund? These and other 
issues must feature in a reform of the Bretton Woods institutions. 

The conclusion of the Uruguay Round and the establishment of 
the World Trade Organisation offer a glimmer of hope for rule -based 
trading relationships. Malaysia applauds and welcomes the underlying 
principles and we pledge ourselves to play by the mutually agreed un- 
dertakings. 

Regrettably, powerful trading nations threaten through unilateral 
actions to undermine the carefully negotiated agreements. The delib- 
erate creation of regional trading blocs, the introduction of managed 
trade, the attempts to link human rights, environmental considera- 
tions, and labour codes to trade, are major threats, which if imple- 
mented would dim the hope of a free envirorunent for trade. We reject 
such attempts. The new protectionism will return the world to a by- 
gone era when trade wars led to military confrontations. 




188 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



And finally, we must address the new threats that come with the 
advent of the Infonnation Age. Poor countries have long suffered from 
biased reporting by the world media, controlled by the developed 
world. Now the computer network created for the spread of knowledge 
and information has become polluted by the irresponsible dissemina- 
tion of filth through them. Someone is making money from this filth. 
The world community must find a way to keep out such filth and to 
provide for legal action to be taken against them by aggrieved countries 
even when they broadcast from outside their borders. They should be 
allowed to bring these miscreants to trial in the aggrieved countries un- 
der their laws. After all, we have already had many instances of extra- 
territorial application of the laws of some countries without so much as 
a by your leave. 

Freedom of information is fine but even in this age of freedom we 
cannot allow morals to be completely undermined in order to enrich 
the merchants of pomography and filth. 

When all is said and done, we still have to admit that the United 
Nations is the only truly multinational organisation where the voices of 

small nations can be heard. We support the United Nations but we 

must correct the tendency to make it an instrument of the rich and the 
powerful. The Uruted Nations must stand on the side of the collective 
needs of people and nations in order to serve all humankind. 




189 




20 
THE FUTURE 
OF ASIA 





THERE WAS A TIME, not so very long ago, when all that Asian 
countries wanted was to Westernise. By this they did not mean indus- 
trialisation or achieving a high per-capita income. They meant simply 
having a Europeanised society, coats and ties for men and hats for 
women. Self-esteem was at its lowest ebb amongst Asians and Asian 
natioris then. They looked down upon themselves as unworthy of pre- 
serving. There were, of course, very good reasons for this inferiority 
complex. Large chunks of Asia were colonised by the Europeans, a few 
of whom were sufficient to rule millions. The Europeans had the skills, 
the knowledge and the manufacturing technology. Asians only had 
cottage crafts. The Europeans were militarily powerful, better organ- 
ised and could impose their will on others. 

Asians believed completely that the Europeans were super-beings 
whose way of life could be aped but whose achievements could never be 
equalled. Thus, when Japan took on the Europeans in the Pacific War, 
most Asians thought that Japan was being foolhardy. Japan's defeat was 
expected. And, of course, after that defeat, Japan was not expected to 
recover. Asians would continue to be subservient to the Europeans. 

And as for the Europeans, they too were of the same mind. They 
were superior and they would always remain superior. They were so 
confident that no Asian tiation would be able to catch up with them 
that they could afford to be charitable. And so Japan was allowed access 
to their huge markets, unrestricted. 



A paper delivered at the Nihon Keizcd Shimbun International Conference on 



the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan, on May 19, 1995 



19/ 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



It was tcx) late before they realised that their charity was misplaced. 
Not only did Japan recover but such backward countries as South Ko- 
rea and Taiwan also seemed capable of emulating Japan's economic 
miracle. 

Historically, Europeans have had very unpleasant experience of 
Asians. The Mongols, the Ottoman Turks and the Arabs had not only 
conquered or raided Europe but had ravaged European lands, burning, 
killing and capturing their people for slaves. For centuries they lived in 
fear of periodical raids by the Huns, i.e. the Mongol Khans and the 
Turks. The Yellow Peril was very real to them. Although they may not 
talk about it so much now, the fear of the Yellow Peril is still very much 
there. 

The recovery of Asian countries and their capacity, in many cases, 
to oust the Europeans from the marketplaces of the world, cannot but 
awaken old fears of the Yellow Peril. Asians may not like it but Euro- 
pean antagonism towards Asian economic expansion is going to figure 
a lor in the future of Asia. 

For the moment, Asia is not progressing uniformly. Much of the 
progress is taking place in East Asia, i.e. Northeast Asia and Southeast 
Asia. But already it is becoming clear that Asian countries are quick to 
learn from the experience of other Asian countries. They may not feel 
up to emulating Western countries but they seem to believe that what 
one Asian country carji do, other Asian countries can also do. 

Beginning with South Korea's and Taiwan's bid to replicate Japan, 
the process has spread to the countries of Southeast Asia. The effect of 
Southeast Asian countries succeeding in industrialising is even more 
profound. If largely brown Southeast Asians can do it, then everybody 
should be able to do it. Development and progress is no longer a mys- 
tery. And so China, the Indochinese countries, Burma and the South 
Asian countries, have all begun the process of industrial development. 
Even the newly-independent Central Asian Republics have shown in- 
terest and are avidly following the progress of East Asia, to find out how 
backward countries can rehabilitate themselves and develop. 

In the meantime, the East Asians are making so much progress 
tliat trade between them now make up 40 per cent of their total trade. 
Clearly, they are still at the beginning. The potential is tremendous. 





192 




EtftW 





POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Presently, China's GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms is 
US$2,855 billion while the GNP per capita is US$435. By comparison, 
Malaysia's GNP per capita is US$3,500. Surely the Chinese are capable 
of catching up with Malaysia. When it does, China's GDP should be 
around US$23,000 billion. The US GDP is presently US$6,387 billion. 
Even if the United States moves ahead at 3 per cent annual growth, it 
will not stay ahead of China for long. 

In feet, the World Bank calculated that by the year 2020 China will 
be the world's largest economy, fully 40 per cent bigger than the second 
biggest economy, the United States. The same analysis concluded that 
assuming a surprise-free scenario, in PPP terms, six of the ten biggest 
economies in the world by the year 2020 will be in Asia. Other than 
China, Japan will be third, India fourth, Indonesia fifth, South Korea 
seventh, Thailand eighth, while Taiwan tenth 

Of course, such predictions cantiot be accurate. There will be so 
many variables which will change the picture radically. But unless there 
is a major war either between the Asian nations themselves or between 
Asia and non- Asian nations, the chances are good that these countries 

are going to make it big. 

The factor that contributed most to this hyperbolic scenario is the 
demise of the communist and socialist economic theories. The assump- 
tion that equality must mean justice sounds logical and ideal. Indeed, in 
many instances, equality does result in justice, as for example, equality 
before the law. But equality of wealth between members of society does 
not result in justice or even fairness. It actually results in everyone be- 
coming poor and it impoverishes the whole nation. It took the Russians 
70 years to learn this simple fact. 

Once communism and socialism were rejected, private enterprise 
becomes possible. Admittedly many former communists still feel pri- 
vate profits are sinful. But they will no doubt learn and over time they 
will accept profit motive as not only normal but actually helps to create 
and distribute wealth. 

Politically the change will be more guarded. The communists will 
probably take a much longer time to discard authoritarian rule in fa- 
vour of democracy. This in itself is not bad. Nothing is more unsettling 
than people held in bondage for decades to suddenly become com- 



193 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



and 



anyone 



The rapid adoption of democracy in a number of fonner commu- 
nist countries has only increased crimes and corruption. Governments 
have become weak and less durable. Unfamiliar with the rule of law, 
they find themselves unable to enforce it the way liberals are supposed 
to enforce the law. 

They are hardly to be blamed. Even the older democracies are not 
quite capable of handling democracy. The rights of the citizen are so 
honoured that they can form armed militia with the expressed inten- 
tion of overthrowing the government by violence. Since all they have 
done is to wear uniforms and carry arms, including machine guns, in 
countries where there is no dress code and everyone has a right to carry 
arms, they cannot be considered as breaching the law. They have to ac- 
tually use their arms against the object of their hate before any action 
can be taken against them. Even then the punishment is likely to be 
mild. A life for a life is considered as barbaric. For killing children and 
other innocent people they will be given a life sentence and then par- 
doned for good behaviour after serving 10 years, 

Democracies are only beginning to learn that too much freedom is 
a dangerous thing. But they are not yet ready to do anything about it. 

Life has become unsafe in many democracies. And wealth has not 
always brought happiness. Even the massive welfare handouts have not 
done much good. There are many abuses and there is corruprion every- 
where, in the government and in the business sector. Morals have de- 
cayed. 

Cognisant of this, is it any wonder then that the former communist 
countries in Asia are not convinced that democracy, at least the West- 
em variety, is the best system? They are not yet willing to discard their 
authoritarian rule for democracy as much as they are ready to accept 
the market economy as a solution to their economic problems. 

Still, increasing wealth through the free -market economic system 
must result in the citizens of former communist countries demanding 
more freedom. But although there will be more freedom there is little 
likelihood that Asian countries of the future will adopt the Western 
style of unlimited freedom. 




194 





^HEvl 



POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




Already those Asian countries which have adopted Western ideas 
about democracy wholesale are finding ruling their country rather diffi- 
cult. Disruptive strikes and riots undermine the economy and make life 
difficult for the citizens. Abolition of religious instructions in govern- 
ment schools, while allowing absolute jfreedom of beliefs, has resulted in 
a loss of direction and the emergence of many cults, some of which are 
violent, Asians are now seeing Buddhist cults which can be equally vio- 
lent. A democratic government is not supposed to interfere unless and 
until lives and property are lost. 

Liberal democracy may be good for the religious deviationists and 
cultists. The innocent victims may not think so. They have a right to 
their lives too. 

The right to strike is regarded as one of the fundamental rights of 
workers in democracies. But what is the basic premise of a strike? It is 
nothing more than a test of strength between employers and employ- 
ees, a trial to see who can withstand the most amount of damage. It is 
like asking two men in a quarrel to fight each other until one gives up 
from the pain inflicted. Is this how a civilised world settles conflicts? If 
there is a dispute, then go to war 

One would have thought that conflicts in this modem age should 
be settled by negotiations, by arbitration or by courts of law. But West- 
em democracy advocates tests of strength as a means to settle disputes, 
They actively urge this. They even try to subvert the workforce of 



newly-emerging countries in the 



of workers* rights. They know 



full well that the liberal exercise of these rights will retard the develop- 
ment of these struggling countries. But that is not about to deter them 
from forcing these rights on the workers of these countries. Of course, 
they arc aware that industrial unrest in these countries will only benefit 
the workers in the developed countries. Don't anyone dare to suggest 
that they may have ulterior motives! They merely want to protect the 
workers of the world. 

Asian countries must be forgiven if they still suspect ulterior mo- 
tives. Tliey are not convinced that the Western form of democracy is 



the ultimate and the best form of democracy. And so they have begun 
to define their own interpretation of democracy. 

Freedom, yes, but with responsibility also. If two centuries ago 
ans insisted that there should be "no taxation without repre- 



Am 



195 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




sentation", Asians today believe there should be no freedom without 
responsibility. 

For Asians, the community, the majority comes first. The individ- 
ual and the minority must have their rights but not at the unreasonable 
expense of the majority. The individuals and the minority must con- 
form to the mores of society. A little deviation may be allowed but un- 
restrained exhibition of personal freedom which disturbs the peace or 
threatens to undermine society is not what Asians expect from democ- 
racy. 

Democracy is a method of government. It is good only if the result 
is good. Here I am reminded of a television report on the Israelis killing 
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon almost a decade ago. The American 
guest commentator expressed his horror at such killings. But he ended 
up by saying that the United States must support Israel because it was 
the only democratic country in the region. Apparently you can kill in 
the name of democracy* 

Malaysia must admit without any apology that its democracy is not 
of the Western variety. When a Muslim religious group began to devi- 
ate from the true teachings of Islam, the leaders were detained. They 
had to defend their beliefs to people well-versed in Islam. They failed to 
convince the learned Muslim scholars of the basis of their teachings. Fi- 
nally, they were themselves convinced that they had deviated and were 
persuaded to return to the true faith. 

The action to bring back these deviationists was taken friirly early. 
Had they been allowed to go on until they stage some form of violent 
attacks on the people, it would have been too late. Of course, now that 
they have been pacified, many felt that the action of the government 
was undemocratic. But Malaysia believes it is democratic to anticipate 
violence and protect the people. 

Whether the West admits it or not, David Koresh and the Jones 
cult were the products of the Western form of democracy. So also is the 
recent bombing in Oklahoma. The Michigan Militia Corp has as yet 
done no real harm. But you can bet that sooner or later they will be us- 
ing those guns which they democratically own. 

Oppression by democrats is no less painfril than oppression by dic- 
tators. Both should be condemned. Asia cannot accept Western mores 
wholesale. Asia should instead pick and chose which aspects of democ- 



196 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



Uniformity should not be a feature of Asian democracy 



Each 



The 



through the basic democratic process what kind and what degree of de^ 
mocracy they want. 

The same applies to human rights. Asian human rights need not be 
a fair copy of Western human rights. The individual and the minority 
must be allowed their freedom but such freedom must not deprive the 
majority of their rights. 

So far some Asian countries have refused to bow to Western pres- 
sures on democracy and human rights. Some, of course, still equate 
modernisation with total Westernisation, total acceptance of all the 
norms and even the idiosyncrasies of the West. But the likelihood is 



Asian countries of the future will be democratic but 
in relation to the West but even in relation to each 



being uniformly democratic 



Ity about 



own 



perceptions as to what constitute human rights and apart from accept- 
ing the free-market economy, there can be no certainty about the fu- 
ture of Asia. Several scenarios are possible. Based upon Asian history 
and the present state of Asian countries, all these scenarios are possible. 

First, taking the worst possible scenario, Asian countries would go 



may 



belongs to China 



with all the islands, reefs and the minerals in the sea. To emphasise its 
claims, China builds a series of shelters for Chinese fishermen, though 
they look suspiciously like military installations. 

Tl^e Asean countries which by then include the Indochinese states 
become agitated. Unable to take on a China that has become the most 
powerful economy in the world, Asean looks to Japan. Japan maintains 
a strictly neutral stand. The Chinese market is too valuable. 

The United States offers to help and is welcomed by the Asean 
states. The Pacific Fleet began to patrol the South China Sea. Clashes 
occur between the Chinese and the United States navies. The United 
Nations says it is in no position to intervene but appeals for the coun- 



197 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



tries to settle their dispute through negotiation. All ignored the United 
Nations. 

China declares war on the United States and a full-scale war 
breaks out. A nuclear bomb is dropped on Beijing, a clean bomb which 
kills only about 10 million people. China retaliates by firing nuclear 
missiles at the west coast of America. Unfortunately, one warhead falls 
near Tokyo accidentally. 

The rest I will leave to your imagination. This is one scenario of the 
future of Asia. 

Another scenario is where all the Asian countries accept the status 
quo. They may grow but must never overtake the West, Asian countries 
may not talk to each other on any issue or act in concert on anything. 
They are all members of the United States-led APEC. 

W^rld trade will be managed by the European Union (EU) and the 
North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), which by then would 

have come together to form the world's biggest trading bloc. This is 
presently being urged by a senior member of the EU and it is not un- 
thinkable that this would happen. With their trading clout, the EU- 

Nafta merger could dictate terms to the rest of the world. 

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) would be placed under the 
EU-NAFTA confederation and through the WTO, world trade will be 
managed such that all countries of the world would get what is deter- 
mined as their fair share of the trade. China would still be big but not as 
big as the United States. China's trade with the EU-NAFTA will be 
fully regulated. 

All markets will be opened to everybody. The small banks in devel- 
oping economies like Malaysia, for example, will have the right to set up 
branches in the villages of Euromerica. Reciprocally, American banks 
can set up branches in Malaysian villages. Mergers take place almost 
daily and soon there will be only a few megabanks controlled by the de- 
veloped economies. 

Some Asian countries revert to producing commodities while oth- 
ers prosper on the tourist trade, catering for travellers from rich coun- 
tries. Manufacturing is best done by those countries with the techno- 
logical know-how, the capital and the marketing network. 

There will be no risk of war as countries will not be allowed to arm 
beyond what is required to keep the arnts trade profitable. There will be 

198 







POLITICS. DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



cKcasional massacres as in Rwanda, A few. hundred thousand people 
will be killed. As this is not war, the United Nations will not do anything 
beyond regretting. So much for the second scenario. 

Can there be a third scenario in the fiiture of Asia? Yes, there can 
be and» indeed, the third scenario is the most likely scenario. In this sce- 
nario, the countries of Asia will adopt the free-market system while de- 
veloping their own versions of democracy. There will be no hurry about 
political reforms. They see the chaos and the violence in the Western 
democracies and they attribute this to democratic extremism. Too 
much'of a good thing is bad, even if the thing is called democracy. They 
therefore prefer to be cautious, democratising only slowly and rejecting 
certain disruptive practices of Western democracy. As a result, the 
Asian countries remain largely stable and are able to develop at a fast 
pace. 



With 



The 



ofWestem 



The less develooed Asian 



Asian countries. As 



Asian 




indeed in Africa, Europe and the Americas, generally boosting the 
world's economy. 

The Asian countries become so rich that the rest of the world de- 
pend on the Asian market. Asia becomes the locomotive of growth for 
the rest of the world. The initial attempt to obstruct the economic 
growth of Asian states was overcome through the Asian countries con- 
senting to talk to each other and to act against managed trade as pro- 
posed by some non- Asian countries. Seeing the possibility of losing the 
rich Asian market if they persist, the non- Asian countries stopped ob- 
structing. Agreement was reached through the WTO that world trade 
should be free and there should be no social clauses attached to it. In 
any case, it was becoming clear that prosperity had led to better wages 
and working conditions for Asian workers, more democracy and 
greater respect for human lights. 

Under these conditions, the Asian countries grew even fester. But 
the rest of the world benefited too as Asians began to buy more from 



199 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



them, invest in these countries, introduce better work ethics and, of 
course, boost the tourist industry through their high spending travels. 

All trade blocs were dissolved. The only trade bloc not dissolved is 
the WTO. Of course, conditions were not always ideal. But differences 
were settled through the WTO, through third parties or through nego- 
tiations. This is the third scenario. 

What our future will be can be largely determined by us. I am no 
more able to predict it than the next man. Even renowned futurists 
have been found to be well off the mark. The year 1984 has come and 
gone and we have not seen state control and Big Brother as envisaged 
by George Orwell. But instead we see a lot of miracles which have not 
been predicted at alL But if we want something, we should work at it. 
The third scenario is idealistic but, as I said, it is achievable. It will be a 
much more equitable world. Asians should not try to get rich at the ex- 
pense of the rest of the world and should be ready to share their wealth. 
In sharing they will not lose. Indeed, they will enrich themselves. 

In the late 1960s, Japan began to invest in Malaysia despite condi- 
tions for investment not being favourable. Today, Malaysia is one of the 
more prosperous developing countries. It is the 1 7th biggest importer in 
the world. And a lot of what it imports comes from Japan. The wealth 
that the Japanese created in Malaysia through their investments now 
returns to Japan. In addition, Malaysia is a good debtor, paying back 
cheap yen loans with costly yens. 

Clearly, enriching your trading partners enriches you. Asians 
should always remember this. It does not hurt to buy even the things 
you do not want from your trading partners in order to reduce the trade 
imbalance, to enrich them. It costs much more to defend yourself in 
subtle trade wars such as effective and continuous revaluation of your 
currency- 
Asian countries, as they become rich, should not be greedy. They 
should not form trade blocs. They should not keep their wealth within 
their countries only. They should invest abroad and open their markets 
to fair competition. If they do all these then the future for Asia will be 
very bright indeed. And the future of the world will be bright too*. We 
can have any scenario we want. The future can be determined by us, if 
we want to. If we don't, then someone will determine it for us. We can't 
blame them if that future favours them. It is all up to us. 




2O0 





IT IS A well-known fact that ever since man began to live in groups or 
communities, the concept of their rights and obligations to the commu- 
nity had always bothered the members. No sooner had they devised a 
set of values to protect the members of the community from each other, 
and from those empowered to enforce the rules of communal living, 
when they found that they were either unenforceable or that abuses 
could be perpetrated by the members and by the very people elevated 

to positions of authority. 

And so concepts and rules were revised and revised again and 
again. And so in any community, the rules and values differed as be- 
tween different periods of its development. While a society may con- 
sider hanging a man for the crime of stealing a sheep in a period as the 
natural and just thing to do, in another day and age it may consider that 
hanging to death as a punishment, even for the blatant murder of a fel- 
low man, as being too barbaric and irJiuman. 

As the world has numerous communities and the state of their de- 
velopment differs widely, it is natural to expect that their concepts of 
human rights, of justice, and of obligation to the community, to differ 
and differ widely. 

Perhaps the focus on human rights as being universal crystallised 
during World War IL Prior to that, the Europeans who had nicely di- 
vided up the world into their empires where they were free to do what 





A speech delivered at the JUST International Conference on "Rethinking 
Human Rights" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on December 6, 1994 

201 






MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



:hey liked with their colonial inhabitants, did not belies 
lality of human rights. The rights of the white man was 



This 



White Man's Burden and it was glorified as a God 

The non-white colonial neonle must arrant wh 



there were abuses of authority or position by the whites, the colonial 
people had to accept this as part of the process of civilising them, of 
bringing order and a modicum of development to them. They may not 
question their colonial masters and certainly they may not strive to free 
themselves. For them, human rights practically did not exist. For the 
imperial nations of Europe, human rights were only for their own peo- 
ple. They were not universal and did not apply to colonial people. But 
World War II saw the horrors of the German concentration camns 



exterminated 



was 



nese ran prisoner-of-war camps for surrendered Europeans. Although 
they were never as systematic in meting out cruel treatments, they nev- 
ertheless cruelly misused their prisoners. 

Shocked by these brutalities, the Allied powers decided that such 
cruelties must never happen again. They decided to spell out universal 
human rights which were to be enforced by a new organisation, the 
United Nations Organisation (UNO). Ignoring totally and unembar- 
rassed by the horrors they brought to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they 
blithely enunciated their version of universal human rights. The pre- 
amble to the United Nations Charter, amongst other things, reads thus: 
**We, the peoples of the UN [United Nations], determined to reaffirm 
faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the hu- 
man person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large 

and small, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in 
larger freedom." 

Almost immediately the victorious Allied founders of the United 
Nations ran into trouble with their universal human rights. They had 
thought that their victory would bring about a restoration of their em- 
pires in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. They thought they were to be 
the ones to enforce their codes amongst their native subjects. That this 
was their view was made clear by the great Winston Churchill who 
grandly declared that he was not elected to preside over the dissolution 



Empire 



202 




POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



But in the event, the colonial territories struck back by demanding 
independence based on the very universality of human rights which 
was spelt out in the United Nations Charter. To cut a long story short, 



erstwhile 



Lting against 



the granting of independence with the kind of cruelty which makes 
nonsense of their subscription to human rights principles. 

But old imperialistic ways do not die; they merely metamorphose. 
Almost as soon as the colonies became independent, colonialism by 
other means was initiated. 

Economic forces, the Western media and non-governmental or^ 
ganisations (NGOs) carried on where the colonial governments left of5f. 
The United Nations may talk of the " ... equal rights ... of nations, large 
and small", but it became clear that large nations, or rather powerful 
nations, were more equal than small nations. Neo- colonialism per- 
petuated the old hegemony. 

But the major Allied powers which created the United Nations 
and drafted its charter split up into East and West, i.e. the Soviet bloc 
and the Western bloc. Fearful of the possibility of the new states switch- 
ing over to the Eastern bloc, the governments of the Western Allies 
were careftil when applying pressure on the new nations. 

Much later, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, 
leaving a unipolar world. All pretense at non-interference in the affairs 
of independent nations was dropped. A new international order was 
enunciated in which the powerful countries claim a right to impose 
their system of government, their free market and their concept of hu- 
man rights on every country. All countries must convert to the multi- 
party system of government and practise the liberal views on human 
rights as conceived by the Europeans and North Americans. 

Most nations agree that the democratic form of government is bet- 
ter than the feudal or totalitarian systems. But even amongst the West- 
em democracies, practices differ. Thus, while the multi-party system is 
advocated, many Western nations effectively allow only two parties to 
ftmction in their own countries. 



The 



form a government 




two-party 



203 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



in very weak majorities which put the government at the mercy of their 
more unscrupulous members and their threats to rebel or cross over 



own 



:mments 



ment. But developing countries cannot function without strong 
authority on the part of government. Unstable and weak governments 
will result in chaos, and chaos cannot contribute to the development 
and well-being of developing countries. Divisive politics will occupy the 
time and minds of everyone, as we can witness in many developing 
countries today. 

The developing countries, by and large, want to practise democ- 
racy but must they practise only the liberal forms prescribed by the 
West, forms which will retard their development and continued inde- 
pendence? But they are continuously being harassed through eco- 
nomic pressures, including the withdrawal of aid and loans, by carping 
criticisms and deliberate misinformation by the Western media and by 
campaigns on the part of Western NGOs, that sometimes fmance pres- 
sure groups within the country to obstruct the government which they 
label as undemocratic. Even if the government is replaced, the new 
government would still be harassed. 

But that is not all. While the Western liberals would badger people 
to opt for democracy and where they thought fit to overthrow their 'un- 
democratic' government, they can expect no help if they get into 
trouble while attempting to democratise their country. Thus the Kurds 
of Iraq were urged to shake off the rule of Saddam Hussein and estab- 
lish their own country. When, after the Western countries had forced 
the Iraqis out of Kuwait, the Kurds rebelled, they were given no help ex- 
cept for gleeful reports by the Western media regarding the problems 
posed by the Kurds against Saddam Hussein's government. The rebel- 
lion was mercilessly nut down while the Western democrats merelv 



looked 



on. 




In Yugoslavia, the different states of the Federation were encour- 
aged to democratically strive for independence. All the states had to 
face military opposition from the dominant Serbs. In Croatia and Bos- 
nia-Herzegovina, the Serbs mounted a savage attack and openly de- 
clared their intention to carry out ethnic cleansing, an euphemism for 
genocide. Hundreds of thousands of Croats and Bosnian Muslims and 
non-Muslims were killed, tens of thousands of women were raped and 

204 






POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 



millions were rendered homeless and forced to migrate. But the West- 
em liberals did practically nothing to ensure that democratic processes 
are respected by the Serbs. 

The track record of the democratic governments of the West is not 
very inspiring. Unless their own interest are at stake, as in Kuwait, they 
would not risk anything in the cause of democracy. Is it any wonder 
then that many countries are leery of the liberal system propounded by 
the Western democrats? 

If the track record of the Westem democrats in propagating their 
ideology is dismal, their own human-riehts records are even worse. The 



West' 



by governments. It does 



ter if the government is elected democratically by the majority of the 



democrats 



personal wishes of the 



The result is perhaps not quite what the original liberal democrats 
expected. Individuals soon decided that they should break every rule 
and code governing their society. Beginning with simple things like 



codes 



norm. The familv was redefined 



habitation between a man and a woman, with frequent changes of 
partners, or between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Chil- 
dren were begotten without known fathers, which in time will lead to 
incest between brothers and sisters and even father and daughter or 



what is desired by the individuals. 



wrong 



norms 




for one and all Yet women dressed and behaving provocatively object 
to being sexually harassed, while leaders are expected to have unblem- 
ished records on sex and drugs. Clearly the Westem society is confused 
as to what it wants. It wants absolute freedom for everyone but no free- 
dom when individuals or society objects. If individuals or society can 
object to sexual harassment or infidelity amongst their leaders then 



West 



West 



norms. They 



205 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 




But it is with regard to freedom from oppression and brutality that 



Western hypocrisy is at its worst. Western governments, their media 
and their NGOs, are tireless in their condemnation of non-Western 
countries for their human-rights records. They threaten sanctions, 
vithdrawal of aid, stoppage of loans, economic and trade union boy- 
cotts and actual military strikes against those they accuse of violating 
human rights. They even kidnap people in other countries in order to 



try them in their courts under their laws if they see fit to do so. They 
have no respect for independence or territorial integrity in their zeal to 
uphold their human-rights principle. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the much-vaunted vic- 
tory over Iraq, the Western powers declared that the independence of 
nations notwithstanding, they have a right to interfere in the internal 
affairs of a country if there is evidence of human-rights violation. This is 
very noble but the method is questionable. What qualifies the Western 
liberal democrats to become both judge and executor of the behaviour 
of nations and citizens of other countries? If there is to be interference 
in the internal affairs of nations, should not the United Nations be the 
right body to lay down the rules and to act? But the mild objections by 
insignificant nations were brushed aside. And so, amongst other things, 
people in distant lands who unknowingly breach the laws of powerftil 
nations are tried in absentia and sentenced. The implication of this is 
frightening. When you can be tried under the laws of another country 
where you have no rights, you have lost your freedom and your inde- 
pendence. You have become colonised again. 

And amorigst other things is Western hypocrisy in Bosnia-Herze- 
govina. Having arrogated to themselves the right to intervene any- 
where where human rights are violated, surely the champions of hu- 
man rights are not going to allow the Serbs to commit atrocities and 
genocide. Armed troops were sent, complete with sophisticated weap- 
ons, tanks and jet fighters and bombers by the Western democratic 
champions of human rights. To do what? To stand and watch as Serbs 
butchered 200,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croats, raped tens of thou- 
sands of women, operated concentration camps no less hideous than 
the Nazis, and hounded millions from their homes and their land. And 
still the Serbs went on with their ethnic cleansing in full view of the sol- 
diers and generals of the countries which had vowed to put an end to 
violation of human rights everywhere. 




206 





POLITICS, DEMOCRACY AND THE NEW ASIA 




Every now and again the Serbs were threatened by these so-called 
defenders of human rights. They, the Serbs, would be bombed if they do 
not stop. After a brave display of the prowess of Western air superiority 
and sophisticated warplanes, the whole Nato forces withdrew and 
whimpered. The Serbs were again urged to negotiate. The Serbs 
shelled and rocketed the Bosnians. People, innocent people, even pa- 
tients in hospitals, were killed and wounded. The champions of human 
rights, worried that their soldiers mig^t be scratched, did nothing. 

The Serbs have the weapons. The Bosnians have none. The cham- 
pions of human rights believe this is an ideal situation. If the Bosnians 
are given weapons then instead of the Bosnians alone being killed, the 
Serbs might be wounded also. So there would be more casualties. Be- 
sides, the Serbs will get angry with the United Nations for not keeping 
their Bosnian victims unarmed, and they might turn their guns on the 
Nato forces. This cannot be allowed to happen. The United Nations is 
there to keep the peace not to enforce peace. If the Serbs do not stop 
fighting, then there is no peace to keep. So there is nothing the Nato 
forces can do. The Serbs can go on butchering the Bosnians, their con- 
quest of territories. And now the Serbs are faced with the fiercest 
threat. If they do not stop attacking the Bosnians, Nato will withdraw 
its troops and let the Serbs conquer Bosnia. Not only are the Western 
liberals cowards but their logic is twisted as well. 

This then is the reality and irony of Western human rights. On the 
one hand, other governments are threatened because of some minor 
breach of human rights; on the other hand, when Western interest is 
not at stake they are prepared to allow the most brutal violation of hu- 
man rights to take place before their very eyes. 

It is rather difficult for us to agree and to accept such double stand- 
ards. And this unwillingness to accede has brought on a tirade of accu- 
sations about Asian recalcitrance. It would seem that Asians have no 
right to define and practise their own sets of values about human rights. 
What, we are asked, are Asian values? The question is rhetorical be- 
cause the implication is that Asians cannot possibly understand human 
rights, much less set up their own values. 

No one, no country, no people and no civilisation has a right to 
claim that it has a monopoly of wisdom as to what constitute human 
rights. Certainly fi:om the records and the performance of the Western 
liberals, they are least capable of defining and preaching human rights. 





MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Indeed, at die moment they have no right at all to talk of human rights, 
much less judge others on this issue. But admittedly Asians are not the 
best examples of the protagonists of human rights, either. They have 
been guilty in the past and, perhaps, lately too, though not as pictured 
by the Western media. 

Let us examine human rights not as Asians or Europeans but as 
members of the human race. It is timely, for faith in modem civilisation, 
is fast diminishing. We can put a man on the moon. We can examine 
stars light years away, we can achieve instant contact with every part of 
the world, we can build intelligent machines and many more wonders. 
But we are still quite uncivilised, for when it comes to killing each other 
we are worse than animals. The liberal views of the West on human 
rights and on other issues do not provide the answers to the woes of to- 
day's world. Everyone, including Asians, must be allowed to make sug- 
gestions and contribute towards devising new sets of values which may 
help resolve some of the problems we face today. 










Asian Renaissance, 81, 129, 

136437,148,173,178,180 



Bosnia-Herzegovina, 21, 67, 

111412.183484,204. 
206-207 



Cambodia.149, 151452, 183 
Capitalism, 1042,41,44^45, 
48-49,51.54,87,93,165,167 

Chechnya, 112. 120. 160, 183 
Communism, 18, 41, 43-44. 48, 

51,165-167,193 
Corruption. 35, 40, 51. 142, 194 
Cronyism, 35 



Democracy. 10. 17, 25.32,39, 51, 

63,71.95,98-99,105-106, 

131-132,141,143,171. 

178-180.185-186.193-197, 
199,204^205 

Liberal democracy, 9. 12. 15, 



07, see Group of 7 

GATIi see General Agreement on 

Tariffs and Trade 
General Agreement on Tariffs and 

Trade, 115-116, 168 

Group of7, 113-114,117 



Huntington. Samuel E, 94, 145 



IDA, see International 
development assistance 

IMF, see International Monetary 
Fund 

International development 
assistance, 115 

International Monetary Fund, 13, 

34,36-37,97,114 



Krugman, Paul, 77, 132 



Look East Policy, 84 



18, 31, 41, 43-44, 49-50, 87-88, NAFTA, see North American 



195 



Feudalism, 43, 45, 48, 51. 54 



Free Trade Agreement 

Nepotism, 5 1 

NGOs, see Non-governmental 



MAHATHIR MOHAMAD 



Non-governmental organisations, 

103,106,203-204,206 

North American Free Trade 
Agreement, 6 1 , 84, 1 98 



Rwanda, 112, 183-184, 199 



Smith, Adam, 59, 80-81, 100 
Socialism, 18,41,43-44,48,51, 

101, 165-167. 193 



UN, see United Nations 
UNCTAD, see United Nations 

Conference on Trade and 
Development 
United Nations, 9, 11, 17-19,32, 

51,68-69,81,111-114, 

119-120,181-184,186-187, 
189, 197-199, 202-203, 

206-207 



United Nations Charter, 111, 

183, 202-203 

United Nations Conference 
on Trade and Development, 
187 

United Nations Organisation, 
202 
UNO, see United Nations 

Organisation 




World Trade Organisation, 88, 

114-117,153,167-168, 
198-200 

World War 1, 26, 55 

World War II, 14, 26, 55, 66, 68, 

83,87,105,121,123,131,147, 
176,186,201-202 

WTO, see World Trade 
Organisation 




DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, one of the most 
durable and outspoken figures on the world political 
stage, has been prime minister of Malaysia since July 
16, 1981 . He first came to prominence in 1969 when 
he was expelled from the ruling party, Umno, for 
writing a letter critical of the then'prime minister, 
Tunku Abdul Rahman. Before being readmitted to 
Umno in 1972, he wrote his famous, highly 
controversial work, The Malay Diiemma (1970), which 
examined the economic backwardness of the Malays, 
and advocated the intervention of the state to bring 
about their rehabilitation. The book was promptly 
banned in Malaysia. In A New; Deal for Asia (1999), 
Dr Mahathir reflects on Malaysia's fight for 
independence and rails against those who blindly 
worship the firee market. 

As Malaysia's fourth prime minister, 
Dr Mahathir has played a pivotal role in the confident 
march of his people towards Vision 2020, his blueprint 
for Malaysia's advance towards fully developed status. 
Born in 1925, Dr Mahathir studied medicine in 
Singapore, where he met his future wife, Dr Siti 
Hasmah Mohd Ali, After working as a doctor in 
government service, he left to set up his own private 
medical practice in his hometown, Alor Setar. In 
1974, he gave that up to concentrate on his political 
career. Dr Mahathir and his wife have seven children 
and ten grandchildren. 





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